Women, gaon & gareeb: Govt takes rural route

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will invest widely in agriculture infrastructure and support private entrepreneurship for value addition in farm sector. PTI

Back in the saddle with a massive mandate, the Modi 2.0 government delivered a Budget that taxed the super-rich to pay the poor, and rewarded women and rural folk, two groups thought to have voted heavily for it, and wooed farmers, an aggrieved constituency no government can ignore.

The Union Budget made a number of provisions for women, including
Rs 5,000 overdraft for women SHG (self-help group) members having a Jan Dhan account. It proposed to expand women’s interest subvention to all districts in India.

The Budget talked of a roadmap to transform the agriculture sector and attempted mainstreaming rural India’s aspirations. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman quoted Mahatma Gandhi to buttress the point that the soul of India lives in villages.

“By 2022, I would like to assure the nation that every single rural family, except those who are unwilling to take the connection, will have electricity and a clean cooking facility,” Nirmala said in her maiden Budget speech.

The rural imprint in the Budget comes in the wake of frequent farmer backlash, including the infamous Mandsaur agitation that left five farmers dead in a police firing.

Voicing her appreciation for farmers who made India self-sufficient in pulses, the finance minister said “Annadata can also be Urjadata” and promised her government’s intent to invest widely in agricultural infrastructure and support private entrepreneurship in driving value-addition to farmers’ produce from the field and for those from allied activities.

Hailing the Budget as citizen- and development-friendly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi projected it as futuristic, saying it clearly reflected concerns for both present and future generations. He said it aimed for the welfare of “gaon and gareeb”, along with consolidating the tax structure and strengthening infrastructure.

Modi said the Budget is one of hope, faith and desire (‘Aasha, Vishwas and Akansha’) and would prove an important link in the making of a ‘New India’.

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