New Delhi: With agrarian distress having become acute in the past two years, Union finance minister Arun Jaitely has sought to provide a roadmap for the turnaround in the weather dependent agriculture and rural economy.
Mr Jaitley on Monday proposed almost doubling allocation to Rs 44,485 crore and raising credit target to a record Rs 9 lakh crore for the agriculture sector.
Additionally, Mr Jaitely stitched a strong rural-agri script of the economy by announcing an enhanced budget allocation of over Rs 8,200 crore for rural development, including Rs 38,500 crores for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Of the Budget allocation for the 2016-17, Mr Jaitley has provided Rs 15,000 crore for interest subvention on farm credit, Rs 5,500 crore for crop insurance scheme, Rs 815 crore to promote dairy and allied sector, and Rs 500 crore to boost pulses output.
Additionally, he also imposed a Kisan Kalyan cess at 0.5 per cent on all taxable services from June to mobilise resources for agri-initiatives.
Giving a strong financial teeth to the government’s slogan to double farmers’ income by 2022, Mr Jaitley said soil health card will be provided to all 14 crore farmers by March 2017. He also stated that an unified e-agri market would be launched on April 14.
While only 40 per cent of the cultivable land has so far access to irrigated waters, Mr Jaitley sought to give a robust backing to expansion the network of irrigation by earmarking a corpus of Rs 20,000 crore. The fund will help the Pradhan Mantri Sinchai Yojna get off the ground soon.
In a bid ensure adequate and timely flow of credit to farmers, Mr Jaitely said that against the target of Rs 8.5 lakh crore in 2015-16, the target of agricultural credit in 2016-17 will be all-time high of Rs 9 lakh crore.
Besides, he said that in a bid to reduce the burden of loan repayment on farmers, a provision of Rs 15,000 crore has been made in the budgetary estimate of 2016-17 towards interest subvention.
Incidentally, the total budget of the Agriculture Ministry has risen sharply for 2016-17. Giving a strong financial blueprint for the economic turnaround of the rural areas, Mr Jaitely proposed a sum of Rs 2.87 lakh crore to be given as grant-in-aid to Gram Panchayats and municipalities as per recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission.
“This is a quantum jump of 228 per cent compared to the previous five-year period,” Mr Jaitley said, while adding: “The funds now allocated, translate to an average assistance of over Rs 80 lakh per gram panchayat and over Rs 21 crore per urban local body. These enhanced allocations are capable of transforming villages and small towns. Ministry of Panchayati Raj will work with the states and evolve guidelines to actualise this.”
160 airports, airstrips to be revived
To boost air connectivity, the government is preparing an action plan to revive 160 airports and airstrips, each of would cost about Rs 50-100 crore.
Presenting the Budget for 2016-17, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the government is drawing up an action plan for revival of unserved and under-served airports.
The civil aviation ministry is already working on a new aviation policy that would focus on boosting regional air connectivity.
The draft policy has mooted various measures to boost regional connectivity including setting up of no-frills airports and providing viability gap funding for airlines.
Among others, the draft policy has proposed that there would be no service tax on tickets under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) apart from service tax exemption for scheduled commuter airlines taking jet fuel from RCS airports, according to news agency reports.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jaitley today said the customs single window project would be implemented at major ports and airports starting from next fiscal....