Union Budget 2024: Govt to set up ₹1 lakh crore corpus for tech-savvy youth to scale up research, innovation

To improve logistic efficiency and reduce costs, the Union government will implement three major economic railway corridor programmes.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 01, 2024 | 6:17 PMUpdatedFeb 01, 2024 | 6:21 PM

Nirmala Sitharaman with the budget

The interim Budget that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented to Parliament on Thursday, 1 February, was devoid of any announcements on major projects, schemes or projects, as expected.

However, Sitharaman exuded confidence that the BJP-led NDA would win the Lok Sabha elections slated for April-May.

“In the full Budget in July 2024, our government will present a detailed road map for our pursuit of Viksit Bharat (Developed India),” she said while concluding the speech.

The finance minister estimated the total expenditure for the financial year 2024-25 to be ₹ 47,65,768 crore. Of the total expenditure, the total capital expenditure was pegged at ₹11,11,111 crore. She also stated that the fiscal deficit was estimated to be 5.1 percent of the GDP.

Related: Sitharaman hikes capital spend, trims deficit for next fiscal

Committed to Viksit Bharat

Outlining the positive transformation the Indian economy has undergone in the past decade, Sitharaman emphasised an all-encompassing approach to development and “the government’s commitment to making India a ‘Viksit Bharat’ (Developed India) by 2047”.

Presenting her sixth consecutive Budget, Sitharaman equalled the record of former prime minister Morarji Desai on Thursday.

The interim Budget included very few new programmes, schemes or projects.

“The Indian economy has witnessed a profound positive transformation in the last 10 years. The people of India are looking ahead to the future with hope and optimism,” Sitharaman said at the beginning of her speech.

“Our government is working with an approach to development that is all-round, all-pervasive and all-inclusive. It covers all castes and people at all levels,” she said.

“We are working to make India a ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047. To achieve that goal, we need to improve people’s capability and empower them,” the finance minister further said.

“As our Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) firmly believes, we need to focus on four major castes: They are, ‘Garib’ (poor), ‘Mahilayen’ (women), ‘Yuva’ (youth) and ‘Annadata’ (farmer). Their needs, their aspirations, and their welfare are our highest priority,” Sitharaman said.

“The country progresses when they progress. All four require and receive government support in their quest to better their lives. Their empowerment and well-being will drive the country forward,” the finance minister assured the comprehensive development of all these four “castes”.

Reiterating the government’s commitment to empowering the poor, Sitharaman said, “We believe in empowering the poor. The earlier approach of tackling poverty through entitlements had resulted in very modest outcomes.”

“When the poor become empowered partners in the development process, the government’s power to assist them increases manifold. With the pursuit of ‘Sab ka Saath’ in these 10 years, the government has assisted 25 crore people to get freedom from multidimensional poverty,” the finance minister claimed.

Related: Govt to launch scheme to help middle class buy or build own house

Economy doing well

Asserting that the country’s economy has been on the direction of growth trajectory, the finance minister said the impact of “all-round development is discernible in all sectors. There is macro-economic stability, including in the external sector. Investments are robust. The economy is doing well”.

“People are living better and earning better, with even greater aspirations for the future. The average real income of the people has increased by 50 percent,” she claimed.

“With confidence arising from a strong and exemplary track record of performance and progress earning ‘Sabka Vishwas’, the next five years will be years of unprecedented development and golden moments to realise the dream of developed India in 2047,” Sitharaman added.

“Every challenge of the pre-2014 era was overcome through our economic management and our governance. These have placed the country on a resolute path of sustained high growth,” she said, referring to the BJP under Modi assuming power in 2014.

“This was made possible through our right policies, true intentions, and appropriate decisions. In the full Budget in July, our government will present a detailed roadmap for our pursuit of developed Bharat,” Sitharaman said.

Related: Projects for port connectivity, tourism infra will be taken up on Lakshadweep

Housing for middle-class families

Apart from housing for the middle class, new medical colleges, and setting up a corpus for tech purposes, the Union government did not announce any new flagship schemes or mega projects in the interim budget.

“Our government will launch a scheme to help deserving sections of the middle class (living in rented houses, or slums, or chawls and unauthorized colonies) to buy or build their own houses,” Sitharaman declared.

She said the government would set up more medical colleges. “Our government plans to establish more medical colleges by utilising the existing hospital infrastructure under various departments. A committee for this purpose will be set up to examine the issues and make relevant recommendations.”

“To ensure faster growth of the agriculture sector, our government will further promote private and public investment in post-harvest activities, including aggregation, modern storage, efficient supply chains, primary and secondary processing and marketing and branding,” Sitharaman reiterated the government’s commitment to developing the agriculture sector.

“After the successful adoption of nano urea, the application of nano DAP on various crops will be expanded in all agro-climatic zones,” she said.

“A comprehensive programme for supporting dairy farmers will be formulated. Efforts are already on to control the foot-and-mouth disease,” the finance minister added.

“India is the world’s largest milk producer but with low productivity of milch animals. The programme will be built on the success of existing schemes such as Rashtriya Gokul Mission, National Livestock Mission, and Infrastructure Development Funds for dairy processing and animal husbandry,” the Sitharaman said.

“The implementation of Pradhan the Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) will be stepped up to enhance aquaculture productivity from existing three to five tonnes per hectare, double exports to ₹1 lakh crore and generate 55 lakh employment opportunities shortly. Five integrated aqua parks will be set up,” she announced.

Related: No change in direct, indirect tax rates

Golden era for tech-savvy youth

Sitharaman also announced the setting up of a corpus of ₹1 lakh crore to benefit tech-savvy youths.

“For our tech-savvy youth, this will be a golden era. A corpus of ₹1 lakh crore will be established with a 50-year interest-free loan. The corpus will provide long-term financing or refinancing with long tenors and low or nil interest rates.”

“This will encourage the private sector to scale up research and innovation significantly in sunrise domains. We need to have programmes that combine the powers of our youth and technology.”

“A new scheme will be launched for strengthening deep-tech technologies for defence purposes and expediting ‘atmanirbharta’ (self-dependence),” she added.

Stressing the development of the tourism sector, Sitharaman said the state would be encouraged to take up comprehensive development of iconic tourist centres, branding and marketing them globally.

“A framework for rating the centres based on quality of facilities and services will be established. Long-term interest-free loans will be provided to states for financing such development on a matching basis,” she further announced.

“To address the emerging fervour for domestic tourism, projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure, and amenities will be taken up on our islands, including Lakshadweep. This will help in generating employment also,” Sitharaman said.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep on 4 January had strained the country’s relationship with Maldives, with its three ministers — later suspended — making unsavoury remarks.

Related: Proactive management helps keep inflation at manageable levels

Three major economic railway corridors

To improve logistic efficiency and reduce costs, the Union government would implement three major economic railway corridor programmes.

Detailing them, Sitharaman said: “The first one is energy, mineral and cement corridors, second is port connectivity corridors, and third is high-traffic density corridors.”

“The projects have been identified under the PM Gati Shakti for enabling multi-modal connectivity. They will improve logistics efficiency and reduce cost,” the finance minister said.

“The resultant decongestion of the high-traffic corridors will also help improve the operations of passenger trains, resulting in safer and higher travel speeds. Together with dedicated freight corridors, these three economic corridor programmes will accelerate our GDP growth and reduce logistic costs,” Sitharaman claimed.

“Forty thousand normal rail bogies will be converted to Vande Bharat standards to enhance the safety, convenience and comfort of passengers,” she added.

“To promote green growth, a new scheme of bio-manufacturing and bio-foundry will be launched. This will provide environment-friendly alternatives such as biodegradable polymers, bio-plastics, bio-pharmaceuticals and bio-agri-inputs,” she said.

“This scheme will also help transform today’s consumptive manufacturing paradigm to the one based on regenerative principles,” the finance minister added.

“Many growth and development enabling reforms are needed in the states for realizing the vision of ‘Viksit Bharat’. A provision of ₹75,000 crore as a 50-year interest-free loan is proposed this year to support those milestone-linked reforms by the state governments,” Sitharaman announced.