Renewed focus on villages, rural areas

Renewed focus on villages, rural areas
The Modi government has renewed its focus on villages, with the Union Budget proposing a 24% hike in allocations for rural, agricultural and allied sectors for 2017-18. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who presented the Budget before the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, proposed to raise the allocation for the sectors from Rs 1,51,115 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 1,87,223 crore in 2017-18.

He also announced the launch of ‘Mission Antyodaya’, with the objective of bringing one crore rural households and 50,000 gram panchayats out of poverty by 2019 — not only the year the nation will celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, but will also go to polls to elect the next Union government. “This mission will work with a focused micro-plan for sustainable livelihood for every deprived household. A composite index for poverty-free gram panchayats would be developed to monitor the progress from the baseline,” Jaitley said. The Budget proposed to allocate Rs 1,28,560 crore for the rural sector in the 2017-18 financial year.

While Rs 1,02,543 crore was allocated in the 2016-17 Budget, the Revised Estimate for the year stood at Rs 1,14,947 crore. The Budget allocation for agriculture and allied sectors stood at Rs 48,572 crore in 2016-17 with the Revised Estimate being Rs 52,821 crore. Jaitley on Wednesday proposed to raise the allocation to Rs 58,663 crore.

With the next Lok Sabha elections two-and-a-half years away, the Budget of 2017-18 signalled the government’s willingness to give a pro-poor and pro-rural tilt to its policies and priorities for the rest of its term. The government proposed to raise the allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MGNREGP) — the flagship village job scheme of the Centre — to Rs 48,000 crore.

“This is the highest-ever allocation for the MGNREGP,” said Jaitley. He had allocated Rs 38,500 crore for the programme in the 2016-17 Budget, but the Revised Estimate for it stood at Rs 47,499 crore.
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