India union budget 2019: When Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stands up in the Lok Sabha on February 1 to present the final Budget of Narendra Modi govterment’s current term, a lot of attention will be given to six welfare schemes – termed ‘core of the core’ in official terminology.
The implementation of these schemes is accorded top priority by the Modi government, which has allocated close to Rs 81,000 crore on them in the current financial year.
These schemes are: Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (Rs 55,000 cr in last budget), National Social Assistance Programme (Rs 9,975 cr), Development of Scheduled Castes ( Rs 5,183 cr), Development of Minorities (Rs 4,580 cr), Development of Scheduled Tribes (Rs 3,806 cr) and development of other vulnerable groups (Rs 2,287 cr).
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The NDA government has spent Rs. 69,548 crore on these six schemes in FY 2016-17 which was increased by over 12% last year as per the revised estimates given for FY 2017-18. In last year’s budget, the finance minister had proposed to increase the allocation on these six schemes by 3.52%.
Among the six most important schemes of the union government, Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MNREGA) is not only the largest programme of all the six ‘core of the core’ programmes accounting for more than two third of a total outlay of Rs. 80,891 crore but it also registered the second biggest increase of over 12% between 2016-17 and 2017-18. It was the second biggest increase after the increase of over 46% in allocation for development of minorities.
The finance minister, however, did not propose any increase in the last year’s budget and retained it the level of Rs. 55,000 cr which was the expenditure on the scheme as per the revised estimate given for 2017-18.
It will be interesting to watch the revised estimates for MNREGA programme in the interim budget to be presented by the finance minister on February 1.
Any increase in the revised estimate will confirm the policy action already taken by the government to alleviate the widely discussed rural distress. Farmers have launched protests in several parts of the country including national capital Delhi and India’s financial capital Mumbai in last two years seeking loan waivers and an enhanced payments for their produce among other things.
The allocation for development of minorities has registered a quantum jump of 46%, from the actual expenditure of Rs. 2790 crore in 2016-17 to Rs. 4075 crore in the revised estimates of FY 2017-18. It was further increased by 12.39% next year to Rs. 4580 cr.
In addition to rural employment guarantee programme, Modi government spends around Rs. 24,000-25,000 cr every year on supporting the vulnerable sections of societies like SC/STs, minorities and other vulnerable groups including money spent on other national social assistance programmes. Last year, finance minister Arun Jaitley had proposed to increase expenditure on these programmes by 12%, from Rs. 23,076 cr to Rs. 25,831 cr.
Modi government is expected to provide a booster dose to these programmes in the election year, particularly to the rural sector as farm distress is considered one of the reasons behind poor performance of BJP in the recent assembly elections for three Hindi heartland states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.