From giving its approval for merger of Railway Budget with Union Budget to advancing the Budget date, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved several decisions. We take a look at seven key decisions that the Cabinet took:
1) Merger of Railway Budget with Union Budget: In what can be called as landmark budgetary reforms, Cabinet on Wednesday merged the Railway Budget with the general Budget. The reforms also include merger of the Plan and the Non-Plan classification in the Budget and Accounts. Despite this move, Indian Railways will continue to maintain distinct entity as a departmentally run commercial undertaking as at present. Unified budget will bring Railways to centre stage & present a holistic picture of financial position of government.
2) Advancing of the Budget date: Arun Jaitley said that the government is in favor of advancing date of presentation of Union Budget but exact date of Budget 2017 would be decided keeping calendar of State Assembly elections in mind.
3) Stockholding limit on pulses extended: Cabinet extended stockholding limit on pulses, edible oils and oilseeds by one year till September 30, 2017.
4) Freedom fighters’ pension: Cabinet also approved proposal to increase freedom fighters’ pension by 20% plus DA. This will benefit all freedom fighters and spouses, dependent parents/eligible daughter pensioners of deceased freedom fighters.
5) Subsidy of Rs 1,250 crore to BSNL cleared: Cabinet cleared subsidy of Rs 1,250 crore to BSNL for rural landline connections. BSNL Subsidy support to be given from Universal Service Obligation Fund for the rural connections installed prior to 1 April, 2002. The Cabinet also approved that the above subsidy support would be the last and final payment and no further request from BSNL for financial/subsidy support from USOF on this count shall be considered.
6) GAIL to be provided Rs 5,176 crore for Phulpur-Dhamra- Haldia Gas Pipeline (PDHPL) project. PDHPL project will connect Eastern part of the country with National Gas Grid.
7) Cabinet also approved enacting of Admiralty (Jurisdiction & Settlement of Maritime Claims) Bill 2016 & repealing of 5 archaic admiralty statutes. Shipping Min’s Bill consolidates existing laws relating to admiralty jurisdiction of courts, arrest of vessels & other issues.
8) Cabinet approved signing and ratification of Agreement between India and Samoa for the exchange of information with respect to Taxes. The agreement will stimulate the flow of exchange of information between India and Samoa for tax purposes which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance. Salient features of the Agreement:
- The Agreement enables the competent authorities of India and Samoa to provide assistance through exchange of information that is foreseeably relevant to the administration and enforcement of the domestic laws of the two countries concerning taxes covered by this Agreement.
- The information received under the Agreement shall be treated as confidential and may be disclosed only to persons or authorities (including courts or administrative bodies) concerned with assessment, collection, enforcement, prosecution or determination of appeals in relation to taxes covered under the Agreement. Information may be disclosed to any other person or entity or authority or jurisdiction with the prior written consent of the information sending country.
- The Agreement also provides for Mutual Agreement Procedure “for resolving any difference or for agreeing on procedures under the Agreement.
- The Agreement shall enter into force on the date of notification of completion of the procedures required by the respective laws of the two countries for entry into force of the Agreement.
9) Raising of Rs 31300 crore in FY 2016-17 & to service principal and interest against EBR of Rs 16300 crore to augment infra spend was also approved by Cabinet. Out of the EBR of Rs 31,300 crore, it is proposed to finance the funds to be raised by Power Finance Corporation (PFC), Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) by Government of India. This implies that the principal and the interest in respect of the EBR of Rs.16,300 crore to be raised by PFC, IREDA, IWAI, and NABARD shall be financed by Government of India by making suitable budget provisions in the Demand of respective Ministries/Departments
10) Cabinet also approved conversion of GoI loan into equity and waiver of interest in respect of Richardson & Cruddas (1972). For this purpose Cabinet approved the conversion into equity of the Government of India loan of Rs 101.78 crores given to the Company, alongwith the interest amounting to Rs 424.81 Crore accrued on this loan. The Cabinet further approved in principle, the strategic disinvestment of Nagpur and Chennai units of the Company and shifting of operations from Mumbai land to other locations of company.