30 crore families have bank accounts under Jan-Dhan : Arun Jaitley

Addressing the Conclave on Financial Inclusions organised by the United Nations in India in Delhi on Wednesday, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley highlighted the three-year progress of the central government’s Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) programme.

Talking about the launch of the initiative three years ago, Jaitley emphasised that the programme came at a time, “when banking was just a prerogative of a small section of society, with almost 42 percent of India being excluded from it”.

Further, the FM went on to discuss the progress of the scheme. So far 30 crore new accounts have been opened under the PMJDY. Also, zero balance accounts have also decreased to about 20 percent from 77 percent in these three years.

Underlining the value of financial inclusion in the Central government’s policies, Jaitley also mentioned how the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will help make formalisation “beneficial” for the country.

Discussing how another initiative Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana has aided the cause of financial inclusion, he explained that the scheme has helped in providing small loans and financing small businesses and the recipients have been women and vulnerable sections.

Sources – Deccan Chronicle , Firstpost

Image Source – Dalip Kumar

 

Free internet for poor people in new Kerala Budget

On Friday, March 3, Kerala government presented the 68th state Budget in the Assembly. This was Pinarayi Vijayan government’s first full budget. The Budget focused on the social welfare measures such as reservations for the differently-abled, increase the statewide internet connectivity and the creation of jobs in health sectors and education.

Kerala Finance Minister TM Thomas said, the internet will be the right of the people, and the two million “poor families” will be getting free access to the sites. The government also announced to give 20 lakh free internet connections.

He also added, “Internet will now become a right for the people and within 18 months the internet gateway would be set up through the K phone network at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore,”.

Nonetheless, the assembly was in chaos, as there was a high – level drama because the opposition members boycotted the Budget session over the alleged disclose of the major portions of the document on social media. It was reported that some members had entered the wall of the Assembly when Thomas was in the mid of his speech.

News Source: New Indian Express, Business Standard

Image Source: News18.com

Kerala govt announces pension scheme for transgenders in 2016 budget

The first budget of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government has brought a wave of joy for the transgender community in Kerala. The budget, which was presented by finance minister Thomas Isaac on Friday, announced a pension scheme for transgenders in the state who are above the age of 60.

However, the pension amount has not been disclosed yet.

Apart from the pension scheme, in an attempt to protect the interests of the minority group, the government will also provide special education aid for students coming from the transgender community.

As reported by The Indian Express, the policy will cover all categories of the community, including male to female transgenders and intersex people.

With an aim to create an inclusive environment for transgenders in the state, Kerala became the first Indian state to unveil a Transgender Policy in 2015. The policy stressed upon creating equal social and economic opportunities for transgenders. Setting up of a TG Justice Board with state minister for Social Justice as it’s chairperson has also been recommended under this policy.

 

 

Union Budget ‘16: More Focus on Farmers and Agriculture

Earlier today in the lower house of the Parliament, Minster for Finance, Arun Jaitley tabled the Union Budget for the financial year 2016-17. His speech laid more emphasis on the development of farmer’s welfare and agriculture of the country.

The budget also emphasized on the rural and social sector which aimed at the development in the healthcare facilities, educational skills and job creation which would make India, knowledge based productive economy.

The budget speech started on the note of doubling the farmer’s income in the next five years. The various highlights of the day regarding the agricultural sector were:

  1. A total expenditure of Rs. 35,984 Cr. was allocated for various agricultural welfare for the financial year of 2016-17.
  2. Announcements were also made on infrastructure investment to enhance the quality of life.
  3. A budget of Rs. 20,000 Cr. was dedicated to NABARD which is responsible to set up an irrigation project.  Under this project, 28.5 lakh hectares of land will be brought under irrigation.
  4. The minister also added that five lakh acres will be brought under organic farming over the period of next three years.
  5. A nominal premium and highest ever compensation will be paid to the farmers who will face crop loss under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna. This will be set up under NABARD by the government.
  6. Jaitley while emphasizing on the urgency of the conservation of water in the drought prone areas of the country announced an allocation of Rs. 60,000 Cr. for recharging the ground water.

The minister broadly focused on its nine pillars to transform India which included farm, rural sector, infrastructure, social sector, education, healthcare etc. he also allocated Rs. 19,000 Cr. for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna.

He stressed on the fact that while the world economy is in a turmoil, but India was resilient to this serious crisis. “Financial markets have been battered but Indian economy has held its ground firmly,” he added.

 

Sources: ANIThe Hindu.

India needs to be a low-cost manufacturing hub, says Arun Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday emphasized that for the Make in India programme to be a success, the country needs to become a low-cost manufacturing hub. Speaking at the 57th National Cost Convention in New Delhi, he also stressed that the country should make the most of favorable low commodity prices.

The Minister said that in the case of service sector, India is undoubtedly capable of becoming a low cost service provider for the world.

“If Make in India has to succeed, we actually have to become a low-cost manufacturing hub. And I think there are several global factors which collectively are suiting us,” he said.

The world is witnessing an unusually low price regime. With China’s cost wages going up, India is back in competition and low prices of oil and commodities are also acting as tailwinds.

Jaitley also mentioned that it would be highly essential for India to make use of this global situation, because as a net buyer, the country will get huge benefits from this low price regime.

The finance minister focusing on the global markets, said that everyone wishes to have products at the lowest rate and aspects such as poor infrastructure, capital and lack of trade simplification increase the cost of goods and services.

Source: The Hindu 

 

Cabinet Reshuffle: Will this rejig make any difference?

When Narendra Modi took his oath as a Prime Minister back in May 2014, little did we know that the council of ministers who were given certain portfolios might have to see a rejig as early as 2016. The Union Ministers saw a slight change back in 2014 it self when Narendra Modi expanded his Cabinet by adding Union Ministers and Ministers of State.

This time around, there are speculations that the Cabinet will see a new overhaul as the Prime Minister is all set to weed out underperformers and bring about fresh faces for fresh approach at the Centre. Sources also say that this has turned out to be a very difficult task for the Prime Minister as he is not able to find apt replacements for the portfolios.

The government has seen tremendous economic growth but has not come out with something spectacular when taxation is considered. This pressure arises as Narendra Modi decides that it is imperative to bring about a reshuffle in his cabinet so as to revive his party fortunes. This change comes about after nearly two years as the all that Narendra Modi promised has started to wear off and affect the ruling party.

Although the next general elections are scheduled for 2019, the fortunes of the ruling government depend on the provincial polls that are yet to come which also include the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Elections. Veteran Newspaper Editor and commentator, Shekhar Gupta commented on the reshuffle, he said, “Modi needs to identify new talent and bring changes in his government. It will be too late if he fails to do it now.”

Prime minister’s aide said how the challenge is to identify the right candidates who can deliver fast-paced reforms and policies in their work sphere. There is a buzz that Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley will be seen handling the high-profile Defence portfolio that is currently being handled by Manohar Parrikar. This change should come about as soon as he delivers his annual budget in February 2016.

Defence is one of the portfolios that Arun Jaitley held before Parrikar took over in November 2014. It is said that moving Jaitley to defence is a better decision as the portfolio will suit the veteran lawyer and will be in the hands of a trusted aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A portfolio like finance would need to be in trusted hands if at all Jaitley shifts his gear to the defence sector. There are chances of Piyush Goyal, Power and Coal Minister to replace Jaitley as the Finance Minister. An investment banker-turned-politician, Goyal is likely to be rewarded as he tackled the issue of chronic power shortages and backing renewable sources of energy that are important for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-election promise to provide electricity to all households in the country.

Sources also bring about information on Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister who intends to work on a more domestic portfolio and Road Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari was given Agricultural industry as an added portfolio, which he politely declined.

Though, offices of the Union Ministers have declined to comment on this over haul, all we can do is sit back and wait for an official announcement. Also, if at all such an announcement is made how it will impact the ruling government who has been seeing major losses in provincial polls since the past few months.

 

Sources: DNA, Reuters

 

8-10% growth rate achievable, says Arun Jaitley

Image courtesy: ANI
Image courtesy: ANI

Mumbai: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said that although the rest of the world is struggling to cope up with a gloomy economy, it is possible for India to achieve 8-10 percent growth, with the country facing an optimistic revenue situation and implementation of reform policies.

Jaitley referred to the indirect revenue collection figures that came out on Friday, which indicated a 14.5 percent increase in indirect revenue collected as compared to last year.

Speaking at the 34th Foundation Day of The National Bank of Agricultural and Rural Development, Jaitley stressed that the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the agenda, along with increased spending on infrastructure, and by making smart cities a priority will accelerate India’s growth trajectory.

Jaitley also noted that while the service sector is heading towards a double digit growth projection and the secondary sector aiming for higher productivity, a 4 percent average contribution of the agricultural sector is a cause for concern.

“And if a 4 per cent average (growth in agriculture) is what we have not been able to achieve, it is this very large section of the population (small and marginal farmers) which still lives in those hard conditions which the socio-economic census just now reflected,” reported The Business Line.

To read more, go on: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/macro-economy/810-growth-target-appears-within-reach-jaitley/article7413601.ece