In the Union Budget 2018 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, healthcare, education and agriculture emerged as the three big winners.
Experts had predicted the Budget to be a populist one, as India moves into general elections next year. The Finance Minister announced that the minimum support price (MSP) for all crops will be set at least at one and a half times the cost of production, besides allocating Rs 2,600 crore for groundwater irrigation scheme under Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojna.
The government’s health, education and social protection expenditure estimate was increased from Rs 1.22 lakh crore last year to Rs 1.38 lakh crore this year. The three percent education cess on personal income tax and corporation tax was replaced by a four percent 'Health and Education Cess.'
The Finance Minister also launched the flagship National Health Protection Scheme to provide coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family for 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, benefiting nearly 50 crore people.
We bring to you a list of five wins for the social sector from this year’s Union Budget.
1. Healthcare gets a boost
Besides the National Health Protection Scheme which the Finance Minister called ‘the world’s largest government-funded health care programme,’ Jaitley also committed Rs 1,200 crore towards the National Health Policy, 2017. The policy aims at building 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres across India, providing comprehensive health care, free essential drugs, and diagnostic services. He also announced the establishment of 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country.
“This would ensure that there is at least one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies and at least one government medical college in each state of the country,” said Jaitley.
2. Better training for teachers, more digital probe in education
The Finance Minister proposed to treat education holistically without segmentation from pre-nursery to Class XII. Besides initiating an integrated B.Ed. programme for teachers and greater usage of digital methods in education, the Finance Minister announced the establishment of Ekalavya Model Residential Schools. These schools, at par with Navodaya Vidyalayas, will be built in all blocks with more than 50 percent ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons.
He also proposed the launch of an initiative, ‘Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE)’, by 2022, with a total investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore in the next four years.
3. Farmer Producer Organisations get their long due acknowledgement
Acknowledging the role played by Farmer Producer Companies working along the lines of co-operative societies, Jaitley proposed hundred percent deduction to companies having annual turnover up to Rs 100 crore for a period of five years. He also announced plans to encourage organic farming through Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and Village Producers’ Organisations (VPOs) in large clusters, preferably of 1,000 hectares each.
4. Investment funds for fisheries and animal husbandry
The Finance Minister also launched focussed investment funds for fisheries and animal husbandry. Similar to Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF) and Dairy Processing Infrastructure Development Fund (DPIDF) set up last year, Jaitley announced the setting up of a Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FAIDF) for fisheries sector and an Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) for financing infrastructure requirement of animal husbandry sector. “Total corpus of these two new funds would be Rs 10,000 crore,” he said.
5. Swachh Bharat Mission to construct two crore toilets
“Swachh Bharat Mission has benefited the poor. Under this mission, government has already constructed more than six crore toilets,” said Jaitley.
Stressing on the positive effect of toilets in the increased dignity of women, education of girls, and a family’s overall well-being, Jaitley announced that the government is planning to construct around two crore toilets.