Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday presented the highly-anticipated Union Budget 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Finance Minister started by thanking the frontline workers who continue to serve the country amid these difficult times, and said that the Budget 2021 was prepared in "unprecedented times".
“Now, just as it had happened after the two World Wars, there are signs that the political, economic, and strategic relations in the post-COVID world are changing. This moment in history is the dawn of a new era – one in which India is well-poised to truly be the land of promise and hope,” she said.
In her 110 minutes paperless budget announcement, FM Sitharaman added that for the first time, globally, social security benefits would be extended to gig economy workers.
“Minimum wages will apply to all categories of workers, and they will all be covered by the Employees State Insurance Corporation. Women will be allowed to work in all categories and also in the night-shifts with adequate protection. At the same time, compliance burden on employers will be reduced with single registration and licensing, and online returns.”
This year, presenting her third Budget, FM Sitharaman focused mainly on six pillars namely — health and wellbeing, physical and financial capital and infrastructure, inclusive development for aspirational india, reinvigorating human capital, innovation and R&D, and minimum government, maximum governance.
The Finance Minister reminded of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana that was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi within 48 hours of declaring a three-week-long complete lockdown in March last year.
The scheme, which was valued at Rs 2.76 lakh crore, provided free food grains to 800 million people, free cooking gas for 80 million families for months, and direct cash transfer to over 400 million farmers, women, elderly, the poor, and the needy.
In the matter of financial inclusion, the FM said that to further facilitate credit flow under the scheme of Stand Up India for SCs, STs, and women, she proposed to reduce the margin requirement from 25 percent to 15 percent, and to also include loans for activities allied to agriculture.
FM Sitharaman also added that the government proposes to provide Rs 1,000 crore for the welfare of tea workers, especially women and children in Assam and West Bengal. A special scheme will be devised for the same.
The minister also clarified that weak revenue inflow that resulted due to the pandemic’s impact on the economy at the beginning of the current Fiscal Year was combined with high expenditure to provide essential relief to vulnerable sections of the society, especially the needy, women, SCs, and STs.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)