The fewer-than-14,000-word Budget presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday has already been analysed, broken down, discussed and debated adequately but there are five unique facets in the Budget that need a second reiteration.
1. Prisoners’ welfare: India suffers a strange problem of judicial overload and long delays, including a surplus of undertrials and those who cannot afford their bail money. It is a kind of concern that rarely gets attention in the Union Budget. They are not a real stakeholder, or votebank. No one cares about them much. Here are people arrested by the police and in custody with certain charges that have not been proven, and as per the chargesheet and law, they are eligible for bail. But they cannot afford it, or find a surety. That the government is providing such people with assistance, through a Budget speech is very applause-worthy.
2. Tax reliefs for middle class, and rich: It is almost taboo to do anything for the rich, except for invoking the “invest in India, create jobs” duty call mantra on them. With a subterranean Robin Hood philosophy at work, governments have to put up an appearance of being harsh with the rich to appear pro-poor, and avoid the “pro-rich, therefore anti-poor” judgment. But income-tax relief not just for the middle classes but those in the highest bracket is so welcome. And to tell people, here, have more cash in hand, spend and boost the economy.
3. It is the environment after all: Nothing is more crucial to any country, society or economy, and the world, than the environment. Global warming is no longer a debate and going green not a luxury. From cutting down customs duties on components used to manufacturing electric vehicles, to the government leading the change in phasing out polluting vehicles, everything green — housing, vehicles, products — is a great scenario.
4. We need nurses: Globally, there is a huge shortage of nurses, and it finds a reflection in India, which is one of the major exporters of skilled, trained and experienced nurses. Even as the Indian healthcare sector grows in both private and public sector, the shortage of nurses is telling — all this at a time when public-funded skill development is an area of thrust and jobs creation is the need of the hour. With great dexterity, Nirmala Sithamaraman gave a very specific focal point to skill development and health infrastructure, sanctioning nursing colleges to train many more nurses in coming years. And on cue, 100 labs to be set up for 5G.
5. Vishwas: Rarely does a government say it will trust a citizen, let alone a businessman. But building further momentum on an initiative to enhance the ease of doing business by a slew of measures, including wholesale removal or amendment of vestigial laws and compliance norms, especially those with redundantly punitive implications, the Budget achieved something extraordinary — decriminalising over 34,000 legal provisions and reducing over 39,000 legal compliances. Least governed, best governed.