What we expected and what was presented? A look at the key features of BJP's interim budget!

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has on Thursday - February 1 tabled the interim budget 2024 at the Parliament in the midst of a sea of expectations. Nevertheless, what was presented to the country was a pack of setbacks with little touchups on how the complete budget would get shaped. The budget has been unveiled when India is counting its days for the crucial general elections. 

As 2024 has become the election year, the BJP regime has presented the interim budget on Thursday for a short period before the polls, while the fullest budget will be tabled by the incoming government. When the interim budget became imminent, expectations were high as with the view of the general elections, it was predicted that the Modi government would formulate a plan to address the crisis of unemployment and inflation endured by the middle-class families. 

A larger section of people hoped that there would be a change in the income tax slab and that they would given a respite from their financial burdens, prompted by the growing costs of fuels, commodities, along with an uncertain employment opportunities. Ostensibly, there are several ironies between what was expected and what was actually presented today. 

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman began presenting her sixth budget on Thursday at around 11 am. At the end, she has scripted a new record as she delivered her first shortest budget speech since taking the office. Her budget speech lasted for 58 minutes and breaking the last year's record, she has now even kept her speech short this year. 

According to reports, Nirmala Sitharaman's shortest budget speech was 87 minutes in 2023 and her successive budget speech this year has broken that record by ending the speech in 58 minutes. On the other hand, Nirmala Sitharaman holds the record for the longest budget speech in India with 2.40-hour speech in 2020 and in her speech, she quoted some of the schemes and infrastructure projects that were launched in ten-year old Modi regime. 

Key features of the interim budget: 

  • The Budget reiterated BJP's idea of 'Viksit Bharat', making India a developed nation by 2047. Under this idea, the budget carried its vision, "Prosperous Bharat in harmony with nature, modern infrastructure, and opportunities for all."  
  • It is claimed that this interim budget was focused on youth and women empowerment, while maintaining fiscal consolidation and continuing capex. There were no changes in tax rates, which had distressed the salaries professionals and middle-class families. 
  • In her speech, Nirmala Sitharaman said, "The Indian economy has witnessed a positive transformation in the last ten years. People are looking towards the future with hope. In 2014, the country was facing enormous challenges. With Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas, the Narendra Modi government overcame those challenges."
  • She announced to keep the tax rates intact and said, "As for tax proposals, in keeping with the convention, I do not propose to make any changes relating to taxation. However, certain tax benefits to start-ups and investments made by sovereign wealth or pension funds as also tax exemption on certain income of some IFSC units are expiring on 31.03.2024. To provide continuity in taxation, I propose to extend the date to 31.03.2025." 
  • A corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore will be created to provide 50-year loans at low or nil interest rates to encourage the private sector to scale up research and innovate in sunrise sectors. The Finance Minister said the healthcare cover under Ayushman Bharat will be extended to ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and helpers. 
  • The government will launch a scheme for deserving sections of the middle class living in rented houses or slums to build or buy their own houses. Furthermore, 50-year interest-free loans to state governments extended for another year under Gati Shakti scheme. 
  • Three major economic railway corridor programmes will be implemented - these are 1, energy, mineral, and cement corridors, 2, port connectivity corridors, and 3, high traffic density corridors. By announcing that 40,000 normal rail coaches will be converted to the standards of the Vante Bharat to enhance safety and comfort of the passengers, Nirmala Sitharaman said NAMO trains and metro rail services will be launched in more cities. 
  • The Finance Minister said that the direct benefit transfer of Rs 34 lakh crore from the government using PM Jan Dhan account led to savings of Rs 2.7 lakh crore for the government and this saving has been realised through avoidance of leakages. 
  • "We believe in empowering the poor. With the pursuit of Sab Ke Saath, the government has helped alleviate 25 crore people from multidimensional poverty", the Finance Minister added. She also said that poor, women, youth, and farmers are four castes for our government. 
  • Nirmala Sitharaman said, "The Skill India Mission has trained 1.4 crore youth, upskilled and reskilled 54 lakh youth, and established 3000 new ITIs. A large number of new institutions of higher learning, namely 7 IITs, 16 IIITs, 7 IIMs, 15 AIIMS, and 390 universities have been set up." 
  • She further said, "Several youth are ambitious to get qualified as doctors. They aim to serve our people through improved healthcare services. Our government plans to set up more medical colleges by utilizing the existing hospital infrastructure under various departments. A committee for this purpose will be set-up to examine the issues and make relevant recommendations."
  • "Our government will encourage vaccination for girls in age group of 9 to 14 years for prevention of cervical cancer", Nirmala Sitharaman added. 
  • With a hope that the BJP will come to power in 2024 general elections, Nirmala Sitharaman said, "In full budget in July, our government will present a detailed roadmap for our pursuit of Viksit Bharat."