Modi govt’s maiden budget aims at ‘Digital India’

In its effort to make transparency the hallmark of their governance, besides bridging the gap between India and Bharat, the new government has embarked on a major digital drive. And, the “Digital India” programme, as announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech, is but an extension of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of an “inclusive India”.

Comprising some ambitious programmes, the Digital India programme has been envisaged to be launched nationwide to ensure broadband connectivity at the village level, improved access to services through IT-­enabled platforms, greater transparency in government processes and increased indigenous production of IT hardware and software for exports and improved domestic availability.

A National Rural Internet and Technology Mission for services in villages and schools, training in IT skills, and e­Kranti for government services delivery and governance schemes have been proposed with an allocation of Rs 500 crore.

Traditionally, India has not enjoyed any great reputation of being a business ­friendly nation. With a view to breaking this notorious image, an eBiz platform has been proposed to be floated, which aims to create a business and investor- friendly ecosystem in India. Supported by an integrated payment gateway, the portal would make all business and investment­-related clearances and compliances round ­the ­clock. A deadline to all Central Government Departments and Ministries to integrate their services with the eBiz platform on priority by December 31 this year is another welcome mandate.

The present Budget is, indeed, a breakaway from the traditional format; but given the zeal of the enthusiasm of the new government for e­-governance, this could well turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg, or an indicator of the shape of things to come, so to say.

  • An India programme “Digital India” to with an outlay of Rs. 500 crore to be launched.
  • E-Visas to be launched soon
  • Rs 100 crore is provided for Kisan TV, to disseminate real time information to the farmers
  • Rs 100 crore allocated for 600 new and existing Community Radio Stations.
  • Programme for promoting “Good Governance” to be launched .A sum of Rs. 100 crore provided.

Few budgets of independent India have dealt with education at a scale such as Budget 2014. The FM has stressed upon girl education as a way towards women empowerment. The gift of IITs and IIMs also lays down the government’s agenda for improving the reach and standard of higher education. From traditional Madarsas to setting up virtual classrooms as Communication Linked Interface for Cultivating Knowledge (CLICK), there is a clear focus on modernising educational facilities. The dearth of good teachers, which was a concern for the Modi government in the Economic Survey, has also been given ample importance. The FM has proposed to ease and simplify norms for education loans in the near future. Funds totaling over Rs 35,000 crore have been proposed for improving the quality and infrastructure related to education in India. How these funds are used and what share rural India gets will be something to keep an eye on.

  • A programme for the up gradation of skills and training in ancestral arts for development Rs 100 crores for Modernization of Madarsas
  • Rs 500 crore provided for setting up 5 more IITs in the Jammu, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
  • 5 IIMs in the States of HP, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha and Rajasthan.
  • Rs 200 crore provided to open Agriculture Universities in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan and Horticulture Universities in Telangana and Haryana.

A comprehensive strategy involving monitored targets on the deteriorating situation of malnutrition, call for total sanitation by 2019, Establishment of four new AIIMs and government medical colleges will help improve the health situation. Taking up the free drug and free diagnosis services on priority basis and providing central assistance in creating new drug­ testing laboratories could also go a long way in bridging the gaps in the health sector in India. Though it could have been routed to improving primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities in the country. Overall, health infrastructure has still not managed to garner the level of importance it deserves. A robust infrastructure in health services would not only benefit millions. Cost of health services have increased multi­ fold in the last few years. The FM could have introduced some measures to make health insurance a reality for all. However, this was given a miss. With piecemeal reforms, health for all may still be a distant dream.

  • Two National Institutes of Ageing to be set up at AIIMS Four AIIMS in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and UP
  • 15 Model Rural Health Research Centres to be set up for research on local health issues concerning rural population.
  • 12 new government medical colleges to be set up.
  • Two National Institutes of Ageing to be set up at AIIMS, Four AIIMS in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and UP

This is one sector that has been given paramount importance in this budget. The focus is rightly placed as it is a job­ creating vertical. Banks will now be encouraged to extend long­ term loans for infrastructure projects without any regulatory pre­emptions. This additional enforcement of banks will result in faster infrastructure creation and lesser hurdles. The announcement of REITs and Infra Investment Trusts could also act as a major facilitator for raising equity by bundling operating projects together. The allocation of Rs 500 crore for setting up ‘3P India’ Institution fo rmain streaming PPPs could potentially revamp the entire framework. The allocation of of Rs.37,880 crore towards NHAI and an additional Rs. 3,000 crore to boost road connectivity in the North­East regions will have long ­reaching implications on the cities they connect. The FM’s stresson development of new ports is also a welcome move. As promised in the new government’s manifesto, there is a proposal to create 100 smart cities across India. The budget has allocated Rs.7,060 crore towards this end, thereby giving a financial sign­ off for this concept. This could ensure a flow of foreign investments into India. The budget has definitely set the tone for revival in this sector. What is crucial is that the coming days see implementation of these announcements.

  • Project on Ganges called “Jal Marg Vikas” to be developed between Allahabad and Haldia.
  • New airports in Tier I and Tier II Cities to be launched.
  • An investment of an amount of Rs. 37,880 crores in National Highways
  • An institution to provide support to mainstreaming PPPPs called 4PIndia to be set up with a corpus of Rs 500 crore