The first budget by Narendra Modi government got off to a promising start with finance minister Arun Jaitely vowing that his BJP-led government won’t be a “victim of mere populism or wasteful expenditure”. But there were hardly any fireworks as Jaitley’s budget speech progressed. The finance minister made extensive tweaks to duty structures in a bid to raise revenue and discourage consumption in some categories. Here are some of the factors that will impact the common man directly:
- Radio taxis: now there is a service tax on radio cabs to place them on par with rent-a-cab services.
- Tobacco, because of a sharp increase in excise duty. Cigarettes, cigars, cheroots and cigarillos (excise duty on them has been hiked to a 11-72% slab), Gutkha and chewing tobacco (10% ), pan masala(4%), unmanufactured tobacco (5%) will all attract higher duty.
- Aerated water with additional sugar will see an increase of 5% in excise duty.
- Imported electronic goods.
- Footwear, sports gloves and readymade garments.
- Semi-precious stones: to encourage exports, precious and semi-precious stones have been fully exempted from basic customs duty.
- Electronic goods such as personal computers, traditional colour TV and the newer LCD/LED version provided it is below 19 inches in screen size.
- Cosmetics and soaps.
- Four new medical colleges along the lines of Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Vidarbha in Maharashtra and in the Poorvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh.
- Agriculture universities in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan and horticulture universities in Telangana and Haryana.
- Five more IITs in Jammu, Chattisgarh, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Five IIMs to be set up in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra.
- A sports university in Manipur.
- Personal income tax exemption raised by Rs50,000 to Rs2.5 lakh in case of tax payers below the age of 60. For senior citizens, there is no tax on income of up to Rs3 lakh per annum.
- Tax exemption on home loans raised from Rs1.5 lakh to Rs2 lakh.
While many new projects have been announced to promote gender parity in the country, Jaitley did not give any details on these new plans.
- The government will launch an initiative called ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (save your daughter, educate your daughter) for Rs100 crore ($16 million). The program will focus on launching welfare programmes for women and increasing awareness on gender discrimination.
- Crisis Management Centres for women in Delhi in all hospitals.
- A sum of Rs150 crore has been set aside to increase safety of women in large cities. The finance minister did not elaborate on the measures the government will take to make these cities more secure.
Electronic Travel Authorization (e-Visa) to be introduced at nine airports in India. The finance minister said this will facilitate the visa on arrival facility, but did not elaborate further.
In order to bridge the digital divide, the government has announced a pan-India program called Digital India to provide broadband connectivity and other IT facilities in rural areas.