Union Budget 2023: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday presented her fifth budget in the Parliament calling it the first Budget of 'Amrit Kaal'. She raised the personal income tax rebate limit, doled out sops on small savings, and announced one of the biggest hikes in capital spending in the past decade as it was the last full-fledged budget of Modi government ahead of crucial Lok Sabha election 2024.
She did a tightrope walk in the Union Budget between staying fiscally prudent and meeting public expectations in the year before the general elections.
What's for Income Tax payers
She announced that there was no tax for those with annual income of up to Rs 7 lakh under the new tax regime. People with annual income Rs 3 to 6 lakh will now be taxed at 5 per cent, from Rs 6 to 9 lakh at 10 per cent, Rs 9 to 12 lakh at 15 per cent and income above Rs 15 lakh at 20 per cent.
What's for women
For the savings of women, the Center has started the Mahila Samman Bachat Patra scheme, which will have a validity of two years and in this, women will get 7.5% interest on savings of Rs 2 lakh. She also said that for the economic empowerment of women under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana National Rural Livelihood Mission, 81 lakh self-help groups have been created by mobilising rural women. "We will enable these groups to reach the next stage of economic empowerment through the formation of large producer enterprises or collectives with each having several thousand members," she said. Financial assistance of more than Rs 2. 25 lakh crore has been provided to small farmers under PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi. About three crore women farmers have been provided Rs 54,000 crore under the scheme, the finance minister said.
Sitharaman also announced enhancing the maximum amount of money that can be invested in the senior citizen saving scheme (SCSS) to Rs 30 lakh compared to Rs 15 lakh now. The postal monthly income scheme also saw an enhancement of limit. In a single name, Rs 9 lakh can be invested as compared to Rs 4. 5 lakh now. The enhancement of limits has come as a solace for investors looking for regular income in times of high inflation. The schemes are backed by a sovereign and hence do not carry credit risk.
PM Awas Yojana
Rs 79,000 crore has been allocated under the PM Awas Yojana to build houses for poor people. The government has increased 66% of the funds for this scheme.
What's for MSMEs
A loan of Rs 2 lakh crore will be given to MSMEs across the country. Under the new scheme, this loan will be available at an interest rate of less than 1 per cent. The government will act as a guarantor for the banks to give loans easily. The finance minister said the allocation to both components of the PMAY -- the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (urban) and the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (gramin) -- has been raised by 66 per cent. The government has earmarked Rs 25,103 crore for the urban component of the scheme, while Rs 54,487 has been allocated for the rural component, making it a total of Rs 79,590 crore. In the last fiscal, Rs 20,000 crore was allocated for the urban component of PMAY, while the revised estimate for the expenditure was Rs 28,708 crore. The allocation made to PMAY-U under the 2023-24 Budget is around 12 per cent lower than the revised estimate for the last year. The revised estimate for expenditure on the rural component of the scheme was Rs 48,422 crore, almost two-and-a-half times more than the original allocation of Rs 20,000 crore. The hike in the allocation of the rural component of the scheme compared to the revised estimate of last fiscal is also around 12 per cent. Altogether, the allocation for PMAY -- rural and urban -- made initially in the Budget 2022-23 was Rs 48,000 crore, which brings the hike announced by the Minister to the tune of 66 per cent.
What's for Railways
Modi government announced that it has fixed capital outlay of Rs 2.40 lakh crore for railways in financial year 2023-24, as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her 5th budget in the Parliament. This will be the highest-ever allocation for railways since 2013-2014, she said. Among other announcements regarding infrastructure development, Sitharaman said that the states and cities will be encouraged to take up urban planning. 100 critical transport infrastructure project have been identified for implementation.
Political slugfest over budget
BJP leaders hailed the Budget proposals as "all-inclusive and visionary", saying the first general Budget of 'Amrit Kaal' is a blueprint for India's rapid growth and development. Party president J P Nadda said the Budget reflects the "farsighted" leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and brings out schemes for people at all levels of the pyramid, particularly those at the bottom.
In its discourse, the BJP describes the period between the country's 75th Independence year to the 100th as "Amrit Kaal". "The first general budget of India's Amrit Kaal is a public welfare and pro-poor Budget. It is the Budget that will empower and uplift the lives of villagers, rural folks, Dalits, tribals, farmers, backward and oppressed classes, differently-abled people and those who are economically backward. It is a blueprint for India's rapid growth and development which will ensure a holistic progress of the country," Nadda said.
Former BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah said it is an "all-inclusive and visionary" Budget that will give further impetus to the Modi government's resolve for building a self-reliant India by taking every section along.
Shah thanked Prime Minister Modi for giving tax relief to the middle and salaried class as the budget proposed to increase tax rebate limit from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh. He further said the Modi government is working with a determined spirit to raise the standard of living of crores of people through cooperatives, following the mantra of 'prosperity from cooperation', he said.
It lays foundation for developed India: PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the first budget of the "amrit kaal" provides foundation to fulfil the resolve for a developed India while giving priority to deprived sections of the society as well. In his first reaction to the Budget presented, PM Modi said it will fulfil dreams of the aspirational society, farmers and middle class. The middle class is a big force to fulfil dreams of a prosperous and developed India and our government has taken many decisions to empower it, the prime minister said.
Opposition calls it election centric
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge termed the budget both "misleading" and "election centric" and accused Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam of skipping main questions on inflation and unemployment.
Taking a dig at the union budget, senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram claimed that the Union Budget has "betrayed" the hopes of a vast majority of Indians. According to him, the budget presented by Sitharaman shows how far removed the government is from the people and their concerns about life, livelihood and the growing inequality between the rich and the poor.
While Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that there was no mention of employment and inflation, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav added that 'Budget 2023-24 gives nirasha'
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"It's a Budget presented keeping the elections in mind, while some relaxations given to the middle class. Govt hasn't said anything about MSP for farmers, employment & youth. Railways also ignored this budget. It has been a disappointing budget," said Dimple Yadav, Samajwadi Party MP.
"This Budget is the same that had been coming in for last 8-9 yrs. Taxes increased, money was not being spent on welfare schemes & subsidies. Tax being collected for some crony capitalists & big businessmen. Public should benefit from taxes but it's breaking their back. Instead of benefitting them (common people), welfare schemes and subsidies are being scrapped. People who had risen above the poverty level have fallen below the poverty level again," said PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.
"This budget is 'Neel batta sannata'... nothing for Bihar. All the MPs from Bihar at the Center should be drown in shame. For the farmers, Railways there is nothing. Did this government give what was given to Bihar during the UPA government?," said Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav.
"There is no relief from inflation in this budget. On the contrary, this budget will increase inflation. There is no concrete plan to tackle unemployment. Unfortunately reduced education budget was from 2.64% to 2.5%. Reducing the health budget from 2.2% to 1.98% is harmful," said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
"This budget mathematical confirmation of the failure of the Modi govt. This seems like a budget for a few states. We hoped tax rebate of up to Rs 10 Lakhs. In Telangana, we pay good salaries to people so this rebate is of no use to us: Kavitha Kalvakuntla," said BRS leader.
(With PTI input)