Union Budget 2022: E-passports, LIC IPO and other highlights from Nirmala Sitharaman’s speech

Union Budget 2022: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her fourth Budget on Tuesday. It focussed on laying the roadmap for the Indian economy for the next 25 years.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2022 in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, in which she laid down the roadmap for India’s economy in the coming financial year. This was her fourth Budget, and third amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, which battered the country’s economy.

The road to recovery proposed by Sitharaman focused on increasing investment in infrastructure building and spending in providing jobs and opportunities for the rural sector. She said that India’s growth is estimated to be at 9.27 per cent.

The finance minister also talked about the initial public offer (IPO) of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India and the strategic transfer of Air India’s ownership.

Presented in the 75th year of India’s Independence, the Budget focused on the next 25 years. And for it, Sitharaman talked about two parallel tracks: Public investments in infrastructure and an inclusive and futuristic Budget.

Here are the highlights of Sitharaman’s Budget speech:

• “This Budget will benefit youth, women, farmers, and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. It will be guided by PM Gati Shakti master plan,” said Sitharaman.

• She also talked about the ongoing third wave of Covid-19, which is led by the new Omicron variant of coronavirus. Sitharaman said that inoculating our population has helped the economy. “We are in the midst of the Omicron wave, the speed of our vaccination campaign has helped greatly. I am confident that ‘Sabka Prayaas’, we’ll continue with strong growth,” the finance minister said.

• The finance minister announced 400 new generation ‘Vande Bharat’ trains with better efficiency and facilities for passengers in the next three years. “2,000 km of rail network to be brought under the indigenous world-class technology KAWACH, for safety and capacity augmentation.”

• She also said that 100 PM Gati Shakti Cargo terminals will be developed during the same period and announced implementation of innovative ways for building metro systems.

• Sitharaman laid down following priorities for the government: PM Gati Shakti, inclusive development, productivity enhancement and investment, sunrise opportunities, energy transition and climate action and financing of investments.

In 2022, 100 per cent of 1.5 lakh post offices to come under the core financial system, enabling financial including and access to accounts through net banking, ATMs, mobile banking and online transfer of funds. “This will benefit senior citizens and those in rural areas,” said the finance minister.

• For farmers, she said that chemical-free natural farming will be promoted throughout the country. Sitharaman said that in the first phase, the focus will be on farmers’ land in 5-km wide corridors along the river Ganga. The finance minister said that the use of Kisan Drones will be promoted for crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying of insecticides and nutrients.

• “MSMEs such as Udyam, e-shram, NCS & Aseem portals will be interlinked, their scope will be widened… They will now perform as portals with live organic databases providing G-C, B-C & B-B services such as credit facilitation, enhancing entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Sitharaman.

• The finance minister also announced the expansion of ‘One Class, One TV Channel’ program of PM eVIDYA from 12 to 200 television channels. “This will enable all states to provide supplementary education in regional languages for classes 1 to 12,” she said.

• “The PM Gati Shakti Master Plan for Expressways will be formulated in 2022-23, to facilitate faster movement of people and goods. The national highway network will be expanded by 25,000 km in 2022-23 and 20,000 crore to be mobilised to complement public resources,” said Sitharaman.

• She also said that states will be encouraged to revise syllabi of agricultural universities to meet needs of natural, zero-budget and organic farming, modern-day agriculture.

• “An open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem will be rolled out. It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities,” Sitharaman further said.

• For the Northeastern region, that finance minister said that PM development initiatives will be implemented for the North Eastern Council, which will enable livelihood activities for youth and women. Sitharaman classified that this scheme is not a substitute for the existing Centre or state schemes.

• “The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better the access to quality mental health counseling and care services, a National Tele Mental Health program will be launched,” she said.

• The issuance of E-passports will be rolled out in 2022-23 to enhance convenience for citizens, said Sitharaman.

• She added: “Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) will be extended up to March 2023, the guaranteed cover will be expanded by 50,000 crore to total cover of 5 lakh crore.”

• “To promote a shift to the use of public transport in urban areas, special mobility zones with zero fossil fuel policy to be introduced. Considering space constraints in urban areas, a ‘Battery Swapping Policy’ will be brought in,” said Sitharaman.

• She further added: “Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics (AVGC) sector offers immense potential to employ youth. An AVGC promotion task force with all stakeholders will be set up to recommend ways to realise this and build domestic capacity for serving our markets and the global demand.”

• To facilitate domestic manufacturing for ambitious goal of 280 GW of installed solar capacity by 2030, an additional allocation of 19,500 crore for performance-linked incentive (PLI) for manufacturing of high-efficiency modules with priority to fully integrate manufacturing units to solar PV modules will be made.

• Digital rupee to be issued using blockchain and other technologies by RBI in 2022-23. “This will give a big boost to the economy,” said Sitharaman.

• She also announced that the gross goods and services tax (GST) collections for the month of January 2022 are 1,40,986 crores – the highest since the inception of GST.

• Both Centre and state government employees’ tax deduction limit to be increased from 10% to 14%. It will bring the social security benefits of state government employees at par with the central government employees