Budgetary boost to rural economy and infrastructure
Being branded as an anti-farmer government by the Opposition, the Budget 2016-17 stresses on boosting the rural economy. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who presented the Budget on Monday, underlined the importance of strengthening ‘rural economy’ as one of the key areas to “transform India”. Listing rural sector as one of the nine pillars, which are part of this transformative agenda, Jaitley laid special emphasis on rural employment and infrastructure.
For rural development, the minister has allocated Rs 87,765 crore in the Budget. Emphasising on rural economy, Jaitley, in his nearly one-hour-and-forty-five-minute speech, said: “A sum of Rs 2.87 lakh crore will be given as Grant in Aid to Gram Panchayats and Municipalities as per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. This is a quantum jump of 228 per cent compared to the previous five-year period. The funds now allocated translate to an average assistance of over Rs 80 lakh per Gram Panchayat and over Rs 21 crore per urban local body.”
Keeping in mind that Panchayati Raj institutions need to develop governance capabilities to deliver on sustainable development goals, the government “proposed to launch a restructured scheme, namely, Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, for which Rs 655 crore is being set apart in 2016-17”. Stressing on the need to focus on drought and rural distress, Jaitley said: “Every block in these distress areas will be taken up as an intensive block under the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Mission. Formation of Self Help Groups (SHGs) will be speeded up to promote multiple livelihoods. Cluster Facilitation Teams (CFT) will be set up under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to ensure water conservation and natural resource management. These districts would also be taken up on priority under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna.”
The government has allocated Rs 38,500 crore for MGNREGS in this Budget. On the government’s ambitious project – Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission – he said, “About 39. 3 rurban clusters will be developed under the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission launched by the Prime Minister recently. These clusters will incubate growth centres in rural areas by providing infrastructure amenities and market access to farmers. They will also expand employment opportunities for the youth.”
Jaitley said as on February 23, 2016, 5,542 villages were electrified. “This is more than the total combined achievement of the previous three years. The government is committed to achieve 100 per cent village electrification by May 1, 2018. Rs 8,500 crore has been provided for the Deendayal Upadhayaya Gram Jyoti Yojna and the Integrated Power Development Schemes,” he added.
The Budget allocates Rs 9,000 crore to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the government’s flagship programme.
Addressing the crucial area of modernisation of land records, he said: “The National Land Record Modernisation Programme has been revamped under the Digital India Initiative and will be implemented as a central sector scheme with effect from April 1, 2016. The revamped programme will build an integrated land information management system. Rs 150 crore has been provided for this purpose.”
On the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), a key scheme of the government, the minister said: “This scheme had suffered in the past because of underfunding. The allocation in 2012-13 and 2013-14 was only Rs 8,885 crore and Rs 9,805 crore, respectively. We have substantially increased the allocation in the last two years and have allocated Rs 19,000 crore (to the scheme) in 2016-17. Together with states' share, Rs 27,000 crore will be spent on this Yojana in 2016-17. Our goal is to advance the completion target of the programme from 2021 to 2019 and connect the remaining 65,000 eligible habitations by constructing 2.23 lakh km roads. Accordingly, the pace of construction, which is currently 100 km per day, compared to the average of 73.5 km during 2011-14, will be substantially stepped up.”