This ‘Green’ Budget 2018 eyes strong Bharat

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Updated: February 2, 2018 4:50:11 AM

Budget 2018: Given the fact that this was finance minister Arun Jaitley’s last pre-poll Budget, this was one of the most keenly awaited events. Arun Jaitley hasn’t disappointed anyone by presenting a well-rounded Budget 2018 that is both pro-poor and pro-growth.

Budget 2018: Arun Jaitley hasn’t disappointed anyone by presenting a well-rounded Budget 2018 that is both pro-poor and pro-growth. (Image: IE)Budget 2018: Arun Jaitley hasn’t disappointed anyone by presenting a well-rounded Budget 2018 that is both pro-poor and pro-growth. (Image: IE)

Budget 2018: Given the fact that this was finance minister Arun Jaitley’s last pre-poll Budget, this was one of the most keenly awaited events. And minister Jaitley hasn’t disappointed anyone by presenting a well-rounded Budget 2018 that is both pro-poor and pro-growth. This can be termed as a ‘green’ Budget that seeks to empower Bharat. The Budget 2018 focusses on three key themes of agriculture, healthcare and infrastructure, which will strengthen the bedrock of the Indian economy. To that end, this is indeed a  transformational Budget. It presses all the right buttons when it comes to fuelling the rural and agrarian economy. He has reiterated the government’s promise of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 and announced a slew of measures and additional allocation of funds for rural India. With a 150% increase in MSP of crops, support to organic farming, doubling the expenditure allocation for the food processing sector, liberalisation of agricultural exports and upgrade of rural haats to give farmers better access to formal mandis, this Budget has its heart at the right place.

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These measures, coupled with the mega Health Insurance programme for the poor and massive spending on rural infrastructure, will go a long way in strengthening the rural economy and improving the quality of life in rural India. Overall, the Union Budget 2017-18 is on expected lines and I am confident that it will boost consumer confidence in rural India. It has successfully laid down the blueprint for creating an enabling framework that would promote growth with a focus on job creation. Dabur has been strengthening its rural footprint and product portfolio to take advantage of the demand growth in the hinterland. This exercise would further gain pace, going forward. The budgetary allocation for cultivation of specialised medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) is another big positive and will help promote India’s ayurvedic heritage. This is perhaps the first time that special attention has been given to this sector. Herbs are at the heart of ayurvedic medication, and over 15,000 herbs have been mentioned in ayurvedic scriptures, of which only around 850 are commonly used in ayurvedic medicines today.

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With a number of these wild herbs staring at extinction due to over usage, Dabur — as the pioneer in ayurvedic products — has taken the lead in preserving and growing this herbal wealth. Such initiatives would now be more widespread with this special focus on MAPs. While there may not be any big-ticket income-tax relief for the middle class, the increased standard deduction against travel and medical expenses will add to the disposable income in the pockets of the common man. The only area of concern, I feel, is the revision in fiscal deficit target for 2018-19 to 3.3% of GDP, as against the earlier target of 3%. This higher fiscal deficit may lead to higher inflation.

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