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The Centre today announced the world’s largest government-funded health care programme aimed at benefiting 10 crore poor families by providing coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.
Allocating Rs 52,000 crore to the health sector, Finance minster Arun Jaitley said the government will be setting up 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country.
He committed Rs 1,200 crore for the National Health Policy, which would go towards building 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres that will provide maternal and child health services, besides free essential drugs and diagnostic services
Jaitley proposed to launch an ‘Operation Greens’ on the lines of ‘Operation Flood’ by proposing a Rs 500 crore fund to strengthen agricultural infrastructure. The government also proposed to raise the volume of institutional credit for agriculture sector to Rs 11 lakh crore for the year 2018-19.
With a promise to double farmers’ income by 2022, the government announced that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for for the upcoming Kharif crops, like paddy, will. be fixed at least at 1.5 times than the cost of production
Introducing a series of measures for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Jaitley lowered the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent for businesses with a turnover of up to Rs 250 crore and set a target of Rs 3 lakh crore for lending under the MUDRA scheme in 2018-19.
A provision of Rs 3,794 crore has been set aside for MSMEs, to provide credit support, capital and interest subsidy and innovations to this sector.
The announcement of 12 per cent EPF in wages towards new employees in all sectors is expected to lead to more number of formal job creation, experts said.
4. Standard deduction
The finance minister brought back standard deduction for salaried taxpayers, which would provide them Rs 40,000 in lieu of transport allowance and medical reimbursement.
The benefit, however minimal, will provide some relief to the salaried class, considering that personal income tax levels were left untouched in this Budget.
However, this will be undercut by the 1 per cent hike in health and education cess, which will almost certainly increase the price of most consumer goods.
5. Senior citizens
The Budget listed several tax benefits for senior citizens, including an increase in exemption of interest income on deposits with banks and post offices from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000.
It also raised the limit of deduction for health insurance premium and medical expenditure from Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000, under section 80D for senior citizen.
Pensioners will also be eligible for standard dedcution of Rs 40,000.
6. Custom and excise duty
Making a calibrated departure from the underlying policy in the last two decades, FM Jaitley hiked customs duties on a number of imported items, including mobile phones, cars and motorcycles, fruit juices, perfumes and footwear.
This was done with a view to boost domestic manufacturing and is expected to lead to creation of more jobs in the country.
On the other hand, basic excise duty on petrol and diesel has been lowered by Rs 2 per litre, and a Rs 6 per litre additional duty of excise on both transport fuels was also abolished.
But a new Rs 8 per litre ‘Levy of Road and Infrastructure Cess’ will be slapped on both petrol and diesel, thereby keeping the total incidence at the same level.
7. Capital gain bonds
With a view to curb tax evasion, the government imposed a 10 per cent tax on long-term capital gains made in the share market.
Also, a 10 per cent tax has been levied on distributed income by equity oriented mutual funds.
The allocation for the Defence Ministry in the Union Budget stands at Rs 2,95,511 crore, around 10 per cent of the total budget amount, recording an increase of around six per cent over last year.
For Indian Railways, the government has allocated capital expenditure of Rs 1,48,528 crore for 2018-19, and all trains will soon have state-of-the-art facilities such as WiFi and CCTVs.
Terming rising air pollution air pollution a “cause of concern”, FM Jaitley announced a “special scheme” to manage crop residue, a major contributor to the deadly smog which engulfed Delhi-NCR late last year.
He also allocated Rs 2,675.42 crore to the Environment Ministry for the fiscal year 2018-19.
The government’s tree plantation drive under “National Mission for Green India” recorded maximum hike with Rs 159 crore allocated for afforestation in 2018-19, an increase of Rs 52 crore over last fiscal.
The Centre also seems focused on conservation of the Tiger, Elephant and tackling Wildlife Crimes with more funds proposed.
(With inputs from Agencies)