New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said the Union Budget is aimed at improving rural infrastructure and increasing rural income as the biggest challenge to the economy is agrarian distress.
He said the budget for 2016-17 aims at taking forward economic reforms, increasing spending on infrastructure and giving a boost to overall development of the country.
"It aims at improving infrastructure in rural areas and rural income increase. Today, the biggest challenge to economy is rural distress and agrarian distress...The budget is aimed at taking forward economic reforms, increasing spending on infrastructure and take the country's economy forward towards further development. The country's development is on services, manufacturing and agriculture sector, that was the aim. The budget is aimed at taking steps towards overall development of the country," he said.
He said the budget aims at helping increase rural incomes, rural infrastructure and animal husbandry. If there is more job creation in villages, it will help emerge multiple sources of income.
He observed that the funds he has allocated will translate to an average assistance of over Rs 80 lakh per Gram Panchayat and over Rs 21 crore per urban local body.
"There is an urgent need to focus on areas of drought and rural distress. Every block in these distress areas will be taken up as an intensive block under Deen Dayal Antyodaya Mission," the finance minister said.
"As many as 300 Rurban clusters will be developed under the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission launched by the honourable prime minister recently. These clusters will incubate growth centres in rural areas by providing infrastructure amenities and market access for the farmers," he said.
He added that Cluster Facilitation Teams will be set up under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to ensure water conservation and natural resource management.
Jaitley has allocated Rs 38,500 crore for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (MGNREGA) in this fiscal.
"The government is committed to achieve 100 per cent village electrification by May 1, 2018," Jaitley said, allocating Rs 8,500 crore towards rural electrification. Overall, Rs 87,765 crore was allocated for rural development as a whole.
"Priority allocation from centrally sponsored schemes will be made to reward villages that have become free from open defecation," he added.
"We now plan to launch a new Digital Literacy Mission Scheme for rural India to cover around six crore additional households within the next three years," he said, asserting on the need to spread digital literacy in rural India.
"The National Land Record Modernisation Programme has been revamped under the Digital India Initiative and will be implemented as a central sector scheme with effect from April 1, 2016," Jaitley said.
He announced a new scheme, Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan with an initial allocation of Rs 655 crore.
"We have decided to embark upon on a massive mission to provide liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connection in the name of women members of poor households. I have set aside a sum of Rs 2,000 crore in this year's Budget to meet the initial cost of providing these LPG connections," he said.
Jaitley said the government had targeted agriculture credit of Rs 8.5 lakh crore in the fiscal 2015-16, which was being enhanced to Rs 9 lakh crore in the next fiscal.
He also said that Rs 19,000 crore will be allocated for rural roads development programme.
On not increasing the tax slab rates, he said there is an attempt to increase the tax base and simplify tax structure.
"Reforms in the economy cannot be brought about by changing the slabs and if tax payers stop giving taxes, the country will stop. There should be benefits to tax payers also and the tax base should also increase," he said.
Jaitley said the steps taken by the government in the last 21 months collectively are themselves "very big" and this is the reason the country's economy is growing despite the global slowdown.
On the passage of key reform bills like GST pending in Parliament, he said that the government is "making attempts" and he expects "the Congress party to help and cooperate in the passage of these key reform bills like the GST"
With inputs from Agencies