Budget 2020-21 will be presented in the lower house of the Parliament on Saturday by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Budget India 2020: With the presentation of Union Budget 2020 just around the corner, speculations around the measures that would be announced by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are dominating discussions across the country. The Union Budget is the annual statement detailing the planned expenditure and revenue of the Government of India for a particular financial year and it often includes the announcement of several schemes and changes in tax policies. It is announced on the first day of February and is followed by a discussion in the Lok Sabha for subsequent approval. Budget 2020 will be presented in the lower house of the Parliament on Saturday. In the run-up to the announcement, Financial Express Online looks at five areas the government is likely to include in the Union Budget for the FY 2020-21.
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Ayushman Bharat Scheme
The flagship health scheme of the first Modi government, Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, had created history when it became the world’s largest health insurance scheme fully funded by the government. The scheme was launched in 2018 to provide health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year to the bottom 40% of poor and vulnerable population in India, covering 10.74 crore families, i.e., around 50 crore people.
In 2018, when the Ayushman Bharat scheme was announced, then Union Finance Minister Late Arun Jaitley had allocated Rs 1,200 crore for the scheme which would be launched in September that year. However, the actual expenditure came out to be Rs 2,400 crore. Keeping this in view, the outlay for FY 2019-20 was increased to Rs 6,400 crore. With the number of beneficiaries rising under the scheme rapidly, the outlay is also expected to be increased in the Budget 2020 to keep with the Centre’s view of affordable and accessible healthcare for all.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
As it nears completion, PM Modi’s key reform Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) has been witnessing a decline in the Budget allocations since 2018. The scheme, which was launched in 2014, aimed to form 9 crore toilets in India by October 2, 2019. According to Sitharaman during her Budget 2019 speech in July last year, by then itself, as many as 9.6 crore toilets had been built under the mission and 5.6 lakh villages had been declared open defecation free (ODF). She further said that most of the goals of the mission had been achieved, and hence the outlay was being reduced. However, she also proposed to extend the mission to undertake solid waste management in Rural India.
Thus, with this new goal of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 2.0, the mission is likely to appear on the Budget 2020-21 with some outlay to assist in solid waste management. However, Budget 2018-19 saw a decline in the allocation to Rs 17,843 crore from the revised expenditure of Rs 19,248 crore in 2017-18. The revised outlay for the mission in FY 2018-19 was Rs 16,978 crore. In the Budget for 2019-20, Sitharaman announced an outlay of Rs 12,644 crore, a decline of nearly 25%. If this trend is followed, the allocation for the Swachh Bharat Mission will feature in Budget of India 2020-21, but with a lesser outlay for the upcoming financial year.
Namami Gange Mission
Namami Gange or Ganga Rejuvenation Mission was launched in June 2014 in an attempt to curb the pollution of River Ganga and rejuvenate it. It had then gotten a Budget outlay of Rs 20,000 crore. It has been another flagship programme and has been getting an outlay in every budget, despite reports that the utilisation of funds remain much below the allocated amount. In 2018-19, the budgetary allocation for the Namami Gange project was Rs 2,250 crore, but revised estimates showed that the government had spent only Rs 750 crore out of that. As a result, in the Union Budget of 2019-20, the government had allotted Rs 750 crore to the project.
Although slashed, the project is expected to get a mention in the Budget 2020 as well, since the Ganga Rejuvenation mission is still ongoing. However, the outlay would likely be included in the allocation for the Jal Shakti Mantralaya, which was made last year after combining the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Indian space programme
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been very particular about giving a push to the Indian Space Programme ever since he first assumed office in 2014. He has encouraged the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to lead India towards becoming a space superpower in the world. While presenting the Union Budget 2019-20, Sitharaman had said that India developed the technology and ability to launch satellites and other space products globally at a low cost. ISRO had, in 2017, successfully created the record of launching the maximum number of satellites on a single rocket. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) carried 104 satellites from India and five other countries when it took off on February 15, 2017, breaking the previous record of 37 satellites carried on a Russian rocket in 2014.
In line with this, in 2019, Sitharaman hiked the Budget outlay for the Department of Space. The department received an allocation of Rs 12,473 crore, as against Rs 11,200 crore revised estimate of FY 2018-19. This accounted for an increase of 11.36%. Out of this, the allocation for space technology was Rs 8,408 crore, an increase of 20% from the revised estimate of Rs 6,993 crore in 2018-19. The space technology also includes Gaganyaan, which will be India’s first manned mission to space.
This year, with the test flight of Gaganyaan slated in December and the work on Chandrayaan 3 having started, it is certain that the Department of Space will get a pretty penny in Budget of India 2020-21. It is likely that the outlay will be increased considering the line-up of missions before ISRO.
Since coming to power in 2014, PM Modi has gone around the world to push for tourism in India. In an effort to grab tourists, the iconic Statue of Unity, the tallest statue in the world, was also made in Gujarat at a cost of nearly Rs 3,000 crore. In 2019, Sitharaman had announced that the government was planning to develop 17 tourism sites into “world-class tourist destinations” to enhance the experience of the visitors. With this, the outlay for the Tourism Ministry in Budget 2019-20 was increased to Rs 2.189.22 crore from Rs 2,150 crore in 2018-19. Keeping in line with this mission, the Tourism Ministry is likely to get around the same outlay for the development of infrastructure and to advertise and publicise the tourism sites.