The Narendra Modi Government’s Budget 2018-19 on Thursday provided a boost to the country’s digital economy, allocating Rs 3,073 crore for the “Digital India”. However, the budget kept the income tax slabs unchanged while allowing standard deductions.
While presenting the Union Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Lok Sabha announced a national programme on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be administered by NITI Aayog.
Another programme on “Cyber Physical Systems” has been proposed to support establishment of Centres of Excellence under the Department of Science & Technology.
“These centres would be facilitating research, training and skilling in Robotics, Digital manufacturing, Big Data analysis, Quantum communication and Internet of Things,” the statement released by the Ministry of Finance said.
In a major boost to facilitate the programme, Jaitley announced allocating of a budget of Rs 10,000 crore in 2018- 19 for creation and augmentation of Telecom infrastructure.
Five lakh wi-fi hotspots have also been announced to provide net connectivity to five crore rural citizens.
Finance Minister said 2.50 lakh villages have got optical fiber broadband connectivity under Bharat Net program. Furthermore, the Government plans to connect 1.5 lakh more villages under the initiative. The program is a collaborative project of the Centre and State wherein the states contribute free Rights of Way for establishing the optical fiber network.
“Digital India” is a flagship programme aimed to transform the nation into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.
Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 1 July, 2015, the Digital India programme is both an enabler and beneficiary of other key schemes: BharatNet, Make in India, Startup India and Standup India, etc.
The Programme has set ‘nine pillars’ namely, Information for All, E-Governance, reforming Government through Technology, Electronics Manufacturing, Public Internet Access Programme, Universal Access to Mobile connectivity, E-Kranti, electronic delivery of services, Early Harvest Programmes, IT for Jobs, and Broadband Highway.
Meanwhile, cryptocurrency has been given a red signal with the Government maintaining that they can be a channel for money laundering and terrorist financing. Instead, the Government plans to use blockchain technology to curb its use.
“We will take all measures against its (cryptocurrency) illegal use,” said Jaitley while presenting the Budget.
Also, offering a relief to salaried class, the Minister proposed to allow a standard deduction of Rs 40,000. It is in lieu of transport and miscellaneous medical expenses and intended to boost the take-home pay of the middle class.
Meanwhile, among other key announcements, the Finance Minister declared that fixed deposits and post office interest will be exempted till Rs 50,000.
Other announcements included a slew of tax deductions for senior citizens, extending the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY) till March 2020.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Jaitely said: “In addition to tax concessions, I propose to extend the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana up to March, 2020 under which an assured return of 8 per cent is given by Life Insurance Corporation of India.”
He also said the existing limit on investment of Rs 7.5 lakh per senior citizen under this scheme is also being doubled to Rs 15 lakh.
Meanwhile, the Government is firm to achieve 8 per cent growth, stated the Finance Ministry in a statement today, adding the GDP growth in the second quarter of 2017-18 stood at 6.3 per cent.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast India will grow at 7.4 per cent next year.