The Interim Budget has made it a top priority to look after the interests of marginal farmers and the labour class but AI, electric vehicles and digital villages also come into focus.
Kisan, mazdoor aur ghar seem to be three constituencies that the Narendra Modi government is targeting as it gets ready for the 17th general elections in a couple of months and the interim Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Piyush Goyal amply reflected the interests of these elements.
Expectations from the industry and the startup ecosystem were not sky high, given that this was an Interim Budget and the country is going to the polls soon. However, the Budget did acknowledge the contribution being made by startups in India in firing up the dreams of the youth and maintaining the status quo was much better than having to introduce something new or unknown.
“Our youth will lead us in this endeavour, with innumerable startups creating a digital India and millions of jobs in this ecosystem,” said the minister.
Despite the Interim Budget’s overwhelming attention on farmers and workers from the unorganised sector, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal acutely captured the country’s future requirements in terms of technology by announcing big plans in artificial intelligence (AI).
“In order to take the benefits of artificial intelligence and related technologies to the people, a National Programme on Artificial Intelligence has been envisaged by our Government,” the minister announced.
This will be catalysed by the establishment of the National Centre on Artificial Intelligence as a hub along with Centres of Excellence. Nine priority areas have been identified and a National Artificial Intelligence portal will also be developed soon.
The Interim Budget was clearly focused on those sections of the population that are far away the digital bandwagon. Not surprisingly, steps are being taken to provide them with basic amenities of life like shelter, food and medicines.
The new pension scheme announced in the Interim Budget is perhaps the largest ever such initiative globally. The Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan will provide a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 from the age of 60 to workers whose monthly income does not exceed Rs 15,000. An unorganised sector worker joining pension yojana at the age of 29 years will have to contribute only Rs 100 per month till the age of 60 years. It is expected that at least 10 crore labourers and workers in the unorganised sector will benefit.
Similar plans have also been announced in the areas of healthcare and affordable housing, and ambitions are clearly big.
The Finance Minister also announced that government plans to send an Indian astronaut into space by 2022. This might be just another achievement statement but there are other things quietly at work, which will help the nation leapfrog into a different orbit.
The Interim Budget has laid out plans for the creation of a Digital India that goes all the way into rural Bharat. “The Government will make 1 lakh villages into Digital Villages over next five years,” the Minister announced.
At the same time, the Budget has focused on encouraging the use of electric vehicles (EVs) with the Minister remarking,
“India will lead the world in the transport revolution through electric vehicles and energy storage devices, bringing down import dependence and ensuring energy security for our people.”
The seeds have been sown for a sustainable future where the marginalised come into the mainstream and the startups stand to gain significantly. For example, the creation of digital villages will certainly mean opportunities for the startup community or the push towards electric vehicles.
“We are moving towards realising a ‘New India’ by 2022, when we celebrate 75 years of India’s Independence: an India which is clean and healthy, where everybody would have a house with universal access to toilets, water and electricity; where farmers’ income would have doubled; youth and women would get ample opportunities to fulfil their dreams; an India free from terrorism, communalism, casteism, corruption and nepotism,” the Minister announced.