A Delve into Union Budget 2021: How Nirmala Sitharaman's promise let experts divide?

With carrying overwhelming expectations from every corner of the nation, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has tabled the Union Budget 2021 in the Parliament on Monday in what has become the first budget for India that it had relinquished the paper system and introduced the digital presentation of the nation's financial blueprint. The budget comes at a high time when the nation is reeling through the testing times of the COVID-19 pandemic and the undeniable fact that the economy is in a critical state that it needs to be revived sooner than later.

Nirmala Sitharaman, who broke the tradition of carrying the leather briefcase that had been for decades and replaced it with a traditional red-cloth, has now introduced the tradition of presenting the budget digitally. Nirmala Sitharaman has tabled the budget with her promise that the budget would be like never before. She unveiled the union budget at around 11 am on Monday and her speech has lasted nearly two hours. Let's delve into what's in her pack of what has become the most significant budget. 

Nirmala Sitharaman has unveiled her budget that was armed with six pillars - 1) Health and Well-Being, 2) Physical, Financial Capital, and Infrastructure, 3) Inclusive Development for Aspirational India, 4) Reinvigorating Human Capital, 5) Innovation and Research and Development, and 6) Minimum Government and Maximum Governance. She began her speech by rewinding and reiterating Prime Minister Modi's bid to build Self Reliant India- Aatmanirbhar Bharat. 

Being caught up with the challenge and expectations for resuscitating the economy amid the testing times of the COVID-19 outbreak, Nirmala Sitharaman's Union Budget had eventually ended up introducing the private players and investments in the ports and the National Highways Authority of India and increasing the limit of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC). As expected, there have been no changes in the individual taxing system and the government had maintained the status quo.

Nirmala Sitharaman had used the 'Made in India' tablet computer to deliver the paperless Budget and from COVID-19 to infrastructure push, the pillars of the budget had kept experts divided. The Budget has had a cover of larger expectations to lay out a vision or a roadmap to steer the economy from the ailing state. With unprecedented deficit and economic contraction in hand, the Budget had the responsibility of pumping-in the liquidity measures to the urban and rural healthcare, infrastructure, creating employment opportunities, and encouraging start-ups. 

However, the experts were disappointed that the budget had invited the private players in some of the important sectors that are supposed to be with the government. Through the budget, the government has also announced various schemes to the poll-bound states- Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, and Assam. Rajiv Kumar, who is the NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman, said, "In my opinion, Finance Minister had raised a lot of expectations regarding Budget 2021 and she has fulfilled all of them. Given the current times, the budget is focused on India's growth and is tailored to accelerate the growth rate". 

Anand Mahindra said, "In a time of unprecedented economic stress, the government's responsibility was to spend enough to revive the economy or else face enormous human suffering. So, I had one expectation from this budget- we should be very liberal in terms of the targeted fiscal deficit. Box ticked". On the other side, Dr. Jaijit Bhattacharya, the President of the Center for Digital Economy Policy Research said that this year's budget is an excellent one but not a transformational one as was promised. 

According to a news agency, Bhattacharya said, "The budget has adopted a brilliant strategy of large-scale infrastructure rollout, funded by asset monetization of the existing road, power lines, gas pipelines, and railway assets". By asserting that the budget has made adequate provisions for health, education, agriculture, MSMEs, and Startups, Bhattacharya stated that the budget is however yet to remove GST on digital payments. 

The Head of Financial Risk Management KPMG said that this budget has been proactive to address concerns around asset quality, credit loss, and liquidity stress and to infuse additional capital of Rs 20,000 crore to the Public Sector Unit Banks for providing continued credit access to wholesale and retail borrowers. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor flayed the budget and said, "This BJP government reminds me of the garage mechanic who told his client, 'I couldn't fix your brakes, so I made your horn louder". 

Dr. Poonam Khetrepal Singh, who is the Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, said, "Focus on health in Budget is testimony to India's commitment to fight COVID. It also shows India's commitment to build stronger health systems. Right from the beginning, India has been pro-actively handling pandemic". "It has not only done this for its own country but it has also gone out of its way to support other countries of the Southeast Asian region with supplies and now vaccines so that those who are vulnerable, their needs are also addressed", Singh added. 

Reputed Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan slammed the Union Government over its negligence on the migrant laborers, who lost their jobs. Taking to Twitter, Bhushan said, "FM announces 35,000 Cr of our money to be spent on Pvt Vaccine Companies for untested Vaccines at a time when Covid is naturally dying down in India! But this money cannot be given to poor migrant labor who lost their jobs or to Farmers for MSP on their crops. Wah FM Sahiba!"