Budget 2019 has reiterated the government's flagship programmes including Digital India
Budget 2019: When Finance Minister stood at the podium in the Parliament to present her maiden Budget 2019, a lot of hopes that India’s tech industry had pinned on the government was solidified. The flagship programme of the Modi government – Digital India – was mentioned in her speech to list the achievements that have been scripted since its inception. While there were not any new subsequent programmes or initiatives this time, Digital India came across as one of the crucial ingredients that Sitharaman stressed is essential to achieve Modi’s dream of making India a $5 trillion economy.
As far as the outlay for Digital India goes, the Finance Minister did not explicitly note the allocation but the Budget literature, which was made available right after her speech, reveals the estimates have been upped to Rs 3,750 crore for the fiscal year 2019-20. It is marginally extra from last year’s Rs 3,353 crore. The government is eyeing new technologies this time, particularly Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and robotics, to take Digital India forward in a country where talent attrition is a big challenge.
Sitharaman said that there will be new programmes, inclusive of many new-age skills, that will be offered to the youth of the country to empower them to “take up high-paying jobs overseas”. Of course, the demand for new-age skills is higher in western nations than India. That being said, trained professionals will acquire more employment in India if the environment is perpetually hospitable. This can be achieved through an overhaul – the area where the Budget outlay can prove to be substantially helpful.
Not only the training programmes are deemed conducive to expand Digital India but the government also wants to revolutionise the country’s transportation sector. Crippled by a concrete infrastructure, electric vehicles have not really cropped up despite the efforts of homegrown automobile companies. In the Budget 2019 speech, Sitharaman laid out the vision of mobilising the industry with a major chunk of displacement of conventional vehicles with electric vehicles.
This may come as a precursor to what Tesla may see as a silver lining to enter a high-potential market such as India to widen the reach of efficient electric cars. In 2018, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reinforced his plans to enter India by 2019, which seems possible with the government’s budgetary allocation for electric vehicles. The government has proposed exemptions in customs duty levied on the parts required to manufacture electric vehicles indigenously. The GST rates on electric vehicles have also been proposed to be lowered to 5 per cent from 12 per cent presently. For all it’s worth, Tesla may begin setting up electric charging facilities before it sets out to launch the first electric vehicle in India.
Sitharaman also earmarked the government’s vision of discovering new venues where solar energy can be equally contributing. It was proposed that huge investments will be diverted towards the manufacturing of plants that will augment the production of solar energy and other related technologies, such as photovoltaic cells, lithium batteries, and servers. Both the technology and the automobile industries are set to benefit from the schemes, partially if not wholly, from the changes introduced in the Union Budget 2019.