The right perspective of evaluating annual Union Budget is not a political barometer but the performance of the Government in near past and its futuristic vision. Finance Minister has presented the Union Budget for the financial year 2017-18 distributing it into 10 distinct themes: Farmers; rural population; energizing youth; poor and underprivileged; infrastructure; financial sector; digital economy; public service; prudent fiscal management; and tax administration. This broadly covers the entire gamut of development and services. Union Budget is an important step towards overall development of the nation with focus on fulfilling the dreams of every section, especially the poor, the farmers and the under-privileged. It provides for creating new employment opportunities, help in overall economic growth and help in raising the income of the farmers.
As interests of all sections of people have been taken into consideration, it is befitting to call it everyone’s budget. It carries three main expectations viz. impetus to infrastructure, strength to the financial system and a big boost to the development.
Reducing basic income tax by half, lowering the rate of tax for small companies and boosting spending on rural employment, agriculture and infrastructure are no small measures. While the taxation liability of people with income up to Rs 5 lakh is being reduced to half, all other categories of tax payers in the subsequent slabs will also get a uniform benefit of Rs 12,500 per person.
The merged budget provides record outlay of Rs. Rs 3,96,135 crore for infrastructure schemes besides a capital expenditure of Rs 1.3 lakh crore on railways and Rs 64,000 crore on highways. The promise to bring one crore of families out of below poverty line and build one crore houses before 2019 elections brings a wave of satisfaction and relief to the poor and the homeless in the country. Allocating good money for railways and highways indicates that the Government is serious about connectivity needs which ultimately lead to economic prosperity. Increased duty on tobacco and pan masala is to discourage the use of such stuff as is injurious to health and it is the right way how Government should ensure reduction in the consumption of these two items.
There is no increase in taxes in general and nothing for a housewife to worry about in regard to prices of commodities of daily use. In the case of senior citizens above 60 years, there will be no tax up to Rs 3 lakh, while the exemption will be up to Rs 5 lakh in case of citizens above 80 years. Both the categories will attract income tax of 20 per cent on income between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh and 30 per cent for income above Rs 10 lakh.
Presenting the Railway Budget simultaneously, FM has taken note of rail derailment accidents and consequent fatalities. There is proposal for setting up of a special safety fund of Rs 1 lakh crore that will cover upgrading of tracks and signaling besides elimination of unmanned level crossings by 2020. The Railway Budget, merged with General Budget 2017-18, also provides for commissioning of new railway lines of 3,500 km against 2,800 kms in 2016-17.