Much-needed Piyush

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, tabling the Interim Budget for 2019-2020 in Parliament Friday, said the government aims to double the income of farmers. It was no doubt a financial statement targetted at agriculturists. The announcement to give Rs 6,000 per annum for farmers with less than two hectares of land, has gone down well with them. The amount will be distributed in three instalments and transferred directly to farmers’ bank accounts. This has assured income support for small and marginal farmers and has been approved under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. Eventually, it resulted in more bouquets than brickbats for the NDA government.

Income-Tax exemption till Rs 5 lakh and pension scheme for those working in the unorganised sector are other highlights. The Finance Minister also announced hiking of tax-free gratuity up to Rs 30 lakh from the existing Rs 20 lakh for employees having service of more than five years. The cap for tax on house rent received has been upped from Rs 1,80,000 to Rs 2,40,000. There will be no notional rent on a second property owned and occupied by the same family. With general elections around the corner, many allege that it has been prepared keeping that in account to get middle-class votes.

The demand from the industry is that in addition to Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and other measures to increase farmers income, agricultural inputs and machinery should also be exempted from indirect taxes to bring down costs. However, they see increased allocation under MGNREGA as a welcome step. With the change in tax slabs and the positive impact on an estimated three crore middle class, we can see an increase in consumer demand. What we missed is investments for education and women empowerment.

NT Bureau