The Union Budget 2018 has given emphasis on strengthening the rural economy and boosting consumption. It ticks all the right boxes with its slew of benefits including higher minimum support prices (MSPs) for kharif crops, upgradation of rural haats to give farmers better access to formal mandis, enhancing the agricultural marketing infrastructure, and promoting organic farming.
Here are 14 ways in which Budget 2018 has come to the rescue of the rural economy:
- The government keeps the MSP for all unannounced kharif crops at least one and a half times of their production cost like the majority of rabi crops.This historic decision will prove to be an important step towards doubling farmers’ incomes, according to the Finance Minister.
- The budgetary allocation of Rs. 200 crore for cultivation of highly-specialized medicinal and aromatic plants is another big positive and will help promote India’s Ayurvedic heritage.
- To further boost the agrarian economy, the finance minister announced the creation of a Rs. 2,000 crore agriculture market infrastructure fund, which will be used to develop and upgrade agricultural marketing infrastructure.
- To protect the interests of more than 86% small and marginal farmers, 22,000 existing rural haatswill be developed and upgraded into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs).
- Government has proposed to increase institutional credit for the agriculture sector to Rs. 11 lakh crore for the year 2018-2019 from Rs. 10 lakh crore in 2017-18.
- The budget also allocated Rs. 500 crore to ‘Operation Greens’ to help promote Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs), agri-logistics, processing facilities and professional management.
- Proposed spending on rural infrastructure is Rs. 14.34 lakh crore.
- The government also proposes to setup five lakh Wi-fi hotspots, which will provide broadband access to five crore rural citizens. Rs. 10,000 crore has also been allocated in 2018-19 for the creation and augmentation of telecom infrastructure.
- The National Rural Livelihood Mission gets Rs. 5,750 crore
- The government announces the world’s largest government-funded health protection scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families; this scheme will providecoverage up to Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
- Two new funds totalling Rs. 10,000 crore announced for Fisheries and Animal Husbandry sectors; a re-structured National Bamboo Mission will get Rs.1,290 crore.
- Budget 2018 announced tax incentives for promoting post-harvest activities of agriculture. 100% deduction has been proposed for companies registered as Farmer Producer Companies having an annual turnover upto Rs. 100 crore on profits derived from such activities. This will be in effect for five years from Financial Year 2018-19.
- Under the Prime Minister Awas Scheme Ruralprogram, 51 lakh houses in year 2017-18 and 51 lakh houses during 2018-19 (i.e. more than one crore houses) will be constructed exclusively in rural areas.
- Under the Ayushman Bharat program, 1.5 lakh centres will be set up to provide comprehensive health care for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. The government commits Rs. 1,200 crore to this flagship program.
Thanks to all of these measures—especially the massive Rs. 14.34 lakh crore spend on rural development—this budget will certainly go a long way towards narrowing the gap that exists between rural and urban India.
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