• Tuesday, March 05, 2024

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India interim budget 2024 news in brief: Government eyes ‘millionaire sisters’

The size of the 2024-25 budget increased 6.1 per cent to Rs 47.66 lakh crore (£453.77 billion), thanks to rise in expenditure and higher allocation for capital expenditure and social sector schemes.

Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman (C) poses for a photograph as she leaves the finance ministry to present the annual budget in the parliament in New Delhi on February 1, 2024. (Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

HERE are news in brief related to the interim budget presented by Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the parliament on Thursday, February 1, 2024:

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an increase in the target for creating ‘Lakhpati Didi’ (millionaire elder sisters) from 20 million to 30 million. The scheme aims to train women in self-help groups (SHGs) to earn a sustainable income of at least Rs 1 lakh (£952) per annum. Presenting the interim Budget 2024-25, Sitharaman highlighted the impact of 83 lakh (8.3 million) SHGs with 90 million women in empowering rural communities and making them self-reliant. The success of these groups has already helped nearly one crore women achieve Lakhpati status, inspiring others, the minister said.

The Indian ministry of external affairs (MEA) received a total allocation of Rs 22,154 crore (£2.1 billion) for fiscal year 2024-25 in the interim budget, an increase from last year’s Rs 18,050 crore (£1.71 billion). Emphasizing India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the largest share of aid went to the Himalayan neighbour of Bhutan, receiving Rs 2,068 crore (£196.8 million) compared to Rs 2,400 crore (£228.5 million) in 2023-24. The allocation for Chabahar Port in Iran remained at Rs 100 crore (£9.5 million), showcasing India’s commitment to connectivity with the Middle Eastern nation. Aid to the Maldives was maintained at Rs 600 crore (£57.1 million) as against last year’s Rs 770 crore (£73.3 million), while Afghanistan received Rs 200 crore. Bangladesh and Nepal were allocated Rs 120 crore (£11.4 million) and Rs 700 crore (£66.6 million), respectively, for development assistance.

Sitharaman unveiled an infrastructure spending plan worth Rs 11.11 lakh crore (£105.7 billion), affirming a commitment to ongoing reforms and not resorting to populist measures in the final budget of the current Modi government ahead of the general elections. She prioritised deficit reduction and aimed to strengthen focus group initiatives. The minister proposed no alterations to income tax rates or import duties, while offering amnesty for pre-2014-15 disputed income tax demands to aid small taxpayers. Sitharaman highlighted achievements and proposed measures to enhance tourism, housing, and renewable energy. Hinting at future priorities, she outlined economic policies to sustain growth, foster inclusive development, and propel India towards emerging as a developed nation by 2047.

The interim budget allotted Rs 1,277.80 crore (£121.6 million) for the census, marking a significant reduction from the Rs 3,768 crore (£358.7 million) allocated in 2021-22. This decrease hints at the possibility that the census may not proceed, despite being delayed for three years. Initially approved by the federal cabinet on December 24, 2019, the census of India 2021 was slated to cost Rs 8,754.23 crore (£833.4 million), with an additional Rs 3,941.35 crore (£375.2 million) for updating the National Population Register (NPR). However, the house-listing phase and NPR updates, scheduled for April 1 to September 30, 2020, were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With the census operations still on hold and no new schedule announced, officials suggest that the process is unlikely to proceed in 2024, especially with general elections due soon. The interim budget allocates Rs 1,277.80 crore for census surveys and statistics.

In the interim budget, the Indian sports ministry received an allocation of Rs 3,442.32 crore (£327.7 million), up by Rs 45.36 crore (£4.31 million) from the previous year’s budget. The upcoming Paris Olympics, scheduled from July 26 to August 11, will be a key focus for the 2024-25 fiscal year. The ministry’s flagship programme, Khelo India, was allocated Rs 900 crore (£85.6 million), up by Rs 20 crore (£1.9 million) from the previous budget. Additionally, the Sports Authority of India, the country’s apex sports body, received a budgetary increase of Rs 26.83 crore (£2.55 million) from the previous year’s revised expenditure of Rs 795.77 crore (£75.7 million). The National Anti-Doping Agency too got a raise with the government allocating Rs 22.3 crore (£2.1 million) in the interim budget as compared to Rs 21.73 crore (£2.06 million) in 2023-24.

Rapid urbanisation is taking place in the country, Sitharaman said during presentation of the budget and asserted that Metro Rail and NaMo Bharat trains can be catalysts for the required urban transformation. She said expansion of these systems will be supported in large cities focusing on transit-oriented development. In October last year, prime minister Narendra Modi flagged off the country’s first Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS). It was named NaMo Bharat train. “We have a fast-expanding middle class and rapid urbanisation is taking place,” Sitharaman said. According to the federal housing and urban affairs ministry, 10 million passengers are riding Metro systems per day in the country.

The interim budget allocated Rs 202868.70 crore to the Indian home affairs ministry with the highest share of funds going to the paramilitary forces such as the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), BSF (Border Security Force) and CISF (Central Industrial Security Force). While Rs 132345.47 crore was given to the police under which the paramilitary forces come, Rs 37277.74 crore was given to Jammu and Kashmir, which has been a Union Territory (UT) after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the former state in 2019. Among other UTs, Ladakh got Rs 5958 crore, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Rs 5866.37 crore, Chandigarh Rs 5862.62 crore, Puducherry Rs 3269.00 crore, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu Rs 2648.97 crore while Rs 1490.10 crore was given to Lakshadweep and Rs 1168.01 crore to Delhi.

The expansion of existing airports and development of new airports will continue expeditiously, Sitharaman said on Thursday and emphasised that the country’s aviation sector has been galvanised in the past 10 years. Presenting the interim budget, she said in the last decade, the number of airports has doubled to 149, adding that Indian carriers have pro-actively placed orders for over 1,000 new aircraft. India is one of the fastest-growing civil aviation markets in the world and domestic air passenger traffic is on the rise. “Roll out of air connectivity to tier-two and tier-three cities under UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) scheme has been widespread. Five hundred and seventeen new routes are carrying 1.3 crore (13 million) passengers,” she said.

(With agencies)

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