New Delhi: The revenue deficit will be 1.4 % against the Budget Estimate of 1.5% and the dangerously threatened tiger can now hope to see a few more of its fellow beings on the Indian soil with Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram declaring a grant of Rs 50 crore to the National Tiger Conservation Authority in ghis Budget speech in the Parliament Friday.
The Finance Minister announced that the sixth central pay commission would submit report by 31 March, 2008. Many in India are looking forward to the sixth central pay commission.
With the modernisation programme going on in full swing, Chidambaram declared the defence allocation hiked by 10% to Rs 1,05,600 crore.
Giving a filip to the public-distribution system (PDS), Chidambaram announced Rs32,676 crore as subsidy to PDS while smart-card based PDS system in Haryana and Chandigarh.
On the infrastructure sector, Rs 800 crore has been earmarked for power reform and the National Highway Development programme gets Rs 12,966 crore. The accelerated power development programmes would get Rs 8,000 crore while the there would be a ultra mega power project at Tilana shortly.
The minister said the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission to get Rs 6,865 crore while the Minority Affairs Ministry fund was doubled to Rs 1,000 crore. Chidambaram informed the House that 288 PSU bank branches would be established in minority districts and Rs540 crore has been allocated for the development of minority districts. In a major announcement targeting the women citizens of the country, Chidambaram said the Life Insurance Corporation would cover all women SEGs.
The Budget session began amid a pandemonium sparked by the Opposition members. However, with Speaker Somnath Chatterjee frantically appealing to the members to behave, the noise subsided as the Finance Minster began his speech.
Beginning his speech with focus on the agricultural sector, the Finance Minister said that performance in this category was disappointing. The growth in the agricultural sector stands at a meagre 2.6% The total output of of food grains during this period was 219.32 mn tonnes., which is a all time record for foodgrain output in 2007. The minister informed the House about the agricultural scheme called Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna. On the positive note, the minister said agricultural credit doubled in the first two years of the United Progressive Alliance government.
Given the spate of suicides among farmers in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh noticed in recent years, Chidambaram announced full waiver on all loans to marginal and small farmers. There is also scheme of debt waiver and debt relief for farmers. The total estimate of loans being waived is Rs 50,000 crore.
To wed agriculture with technology in a more robust manner, the minister declared that 500 soil testing laboratories would be set up in the country. An amount of Rs 5 crore has been allocated to Agri culture Ministry for soil testing labs in 250 districts. To make the country’s farmers feel more secured, the weather-based crop insurance scheme has been allocated Rs50 crore. An amount of Rs20,000 crore for irrigation projects under AIPB has also been earmarked for the fiscal year 2008-09. To give a boost to cardamom and coffee growers more funds would be provided.
The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana would be provided with Rs2,80,000 crore while 53 minor irrigation programmes would be implemented in the coming fiscal. The target of Rs 2.80 lakh crore for agri-credit in 2008-09 has been set, Chidambaram announced. On the horticulture sector, Chidambaram announced the allocation of Rs1,100 cr to the National Horticulture Mission.
Highlighting on the health sector, Chidambaram announced an increase of fund in the National Rural Health Misson to Rs 12,050 crore.
Referring to the volatile situation in the global oil market, Chidambaram said crude oil was down during the last fiscal year.
Drawing attention to inflation, the Finance Minister assured the House that the government will take effective measures to check inflation and proper management of capital inflow. The government along with the Reserve Bank of India will check the capital inflow, he said. Even as Chidambaram mentioned that the government will monitor foreign fund flow, he admiitted the impact of global markets on local counterparts is still unclear. However the minister assured the House of maintaining 8% growth.
Coming to the education sector, the minister said 6,000 model high schools would be set up and the 2008-09 will be a year of consolidation. The minister informed the House that there would be Rs 34,400 cr budgetary allocation for education. The education for all scheme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan gets Rs 13,100 cr while the Rs 10 cr has been allocated for Nehru Kendras in 110 districts of the country. An amount of Rs85 crore has been earmarked to build a knowledge society. There would be 410 vidyalayas in villages and Navodiya Vidyalayas in 6,000 districts all over the country, Chidambaram said in his Budget Speech. The mid-day meal scheme has been extended to upper primary classes, Chidambaram announced.
The Ministry of Woman and Child Development gets Rs 7,200 crore in the 2008-09 fiscal yearwhile there is a 24% increase in allocation for child development , the Finance Minister said.
The Finance Minister announced scholarships for science and research giving a boost to higheer education. Three new Indian Institute of Technology would come oout in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan while 16 central universities would come up as well, Chidambaram declared in his Budget speech. The education and health allocation is up by 20%, the Finance Minister announced.
Focussing on the rural infrastructure scheme the Bharat Nirman Programme , the Finance Minister said the programme gets a budgetary allocation of Rs31,280 crore.