Finance Minister Arun Jaitley began presenting the Union Budget, even as Congress members demanded a delay in view of the demise of sitting member E Ahamed. This is Jaitley’s fourth budget as Finance Minister.

The budget presentation arrives amid much hope that the proposals will help revive India’s slowing economy, which was greatly impacted by the recent demonetisation policy. For the first time, the date of the presentation of the budget has been advanced by almost a month.

In his opening remarks, the FM said, “Inflation has been controlled, low growth has been replaced with high growth, and a massive war against black money has been launched.”
Here are a few highlights so far:

FM Arun Jaitley begins with a vote of thanks to people for their support, and assures of more measures for their welfare

Demonetisation features pretty early

FM calls demonetisation a bold and decisive measure, and that it sought to create a GDP that was bigger, cleaner and real. According to him, demonetisation and GST (Goods and Services Tax) will have “an epoch-making impact on our lives”. The effects of demonetisation, says the FM, will not spillover to the next fiscal year.

FM in poetic mode

Jaitley goes off track. Even before policies are announced, he recites a poem in Hindi. And then he does that again.

Talks about three reforms

His three major reforms are: 1) Early presentation of the Budget to avoid a vote on account and have a single appropriation bill, 2) the merger of the Railway Budget into the general Budget, which is also touted to be a “historic move”, and 3) scrapping Plan-Non-Plan bifurcation. (Plan expenditure refers to the expenditure on those goods and services that are part of the five-year plan.)

Newest slogan of the government: TEC India

The FM comes up with a new slogan – TEC India. Trasform, Energise, and Clean India. And “tech” also comes in slyly in the pronouncement.

Speaking of slogans, Swachh Bharat was also spoken of

The FM spoke of how the Swachh Bharat mission has made tremendous progress. He said that sanitation coverage has increased to 60% now (from 42% in October 13).

Quotes Gandhi

Quotes this very meaningful quote: “A right cause never fails.”

Focus on 10 issues

The focus was on 10 generic issues – farming sector, rural population, youth, poor and health care for the underprivileged, infrastructure, financial sector for stronger institutions, speedy accountability, public services, prudent fiscal management and tax administration for the honest.

Income tax lowered

Income tax rate was reduced to 5% from 10% for people with incomes between 2.5 lakh to 5 lakh.

MNREGA made an appearance

First off, the government aims at bringing 1 crore households out of poverty by 2019. Over Rs 3 lakh crore are to be spent on rural India, and MNREGA will double farmers’ income. MNREGA will also ensure that women’s participation is rises to 55%.

Scheming for the youth

Here’s what you need to know. A system of measuring annual learning outcomes will be introduced. So will courses on foreign languages. Colleges will now be identified based on accreditation.

From the Railway Budget

Now, there will be bio toilets for all trains by 2019. Five hundred stations will be made differently-abled friendly. There won’t be service charge while booking tickets with the IRCTC. Also, there will be an SMS-based clean my coach service.

Going digital

The Bhim app is touted to unleash a mobile phone revolution. There will be two new schemes to promote the app – referral bonus for users and cash back for traders.

Donations for political parties

The maximum amount of cash donation for political parties will be Rs 2,000 from any one source. Moreover, political parties will now be entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode from donors.