The 2017 Union Budget has put the country first and it addresses inclusive growth covering various sectors of the economy.
While demonetisation was a bold and decisive strike by government in a series of measures to arrive at a new norm of real GDP, the budget has given a big boost to rural economy and infrastructure – clear areas for strengthening inclusive growth. The increase of 24 percent in total allocation for rural, agri and allied sectors for 2017-18 is a welcome step, which will benefit our farmers. Dalits, tribals, backward classes and minorities have been given due attention with doubling of the lending target to these sections of society to Rs2.44 lakh crore, thereby achieving more inclusive growth.
Healthcare has received a much needed push with the setting up of two new AIIMS in Jharkhand and Gujarat and creation of additional 5,000 post graduate seats for specialist doctors to support healthcare at various levels. Aadhaar based health cards for senior citizens is also an attempt to make healthcare more broad-based and inclusive.
In my view, the proposed simplification of the recruitment process for government jobs is a big fillip as it helps millions of job aspirants. I am personally very happy and hopeful that this will alleviate the pains, the bureaucracy, reduce corruption and create a level playing field.
It is also pleasing to see the enhanced budget allocation, of about Rs28,000 crore for women and children welfare schemes across all ministries. This underlines the government’s commitment to women empowerment.
Providing infrastructure status to affordable housing will enable such projects to get associated benefits and spur the much required push for affordable housing. India with the highest working-age population will greatly benefit from programmes such as SANKALP and STRIVE aimed to provide market-relevant training and advanced skilling to 3.5 crore young Indians. The announcement of 100 India International Skill Centres to be established across the country, over time, should help bridge the gap between haves and have-nots.
We all know that alleviation of poverty will be the real accelerator of growth and the government’s aim to bring one crore households out of poverty and make 50,000 gram panchayats poverty-free by 2019 will go a long way in changing global perceptions about India. The ‘DigiGaon’ initiative that enables telemedicine, education and skilling through digital technology has the potential to accelerate the pace of bringing rural India into the mainstream.
Sanitation and open defecation free villages along with national rural drinking water programme are what India really needs and the budget has rightly given priority to these areas.
Overall this budget is prepared keeping the future growth of the country in mind. The focus on transforming governance and lives of people, coupled with a sincere attempt by the government to push the pyramid from bottom up is what India really needs.
The writer is MD, Bombay Burmah Trading Corp and Director, Britannia Industries Ltd.