For the first time in the history of India, both the Union Budget and the Rail budget have been merged with the General Budget. There will be no separate Rail budget, this time! This decision to present the budget together was taken with the aim to complete the whole process before the end of this financial year.

However, due to the untimely demise of sitting MP E Ahamed, there was an uncertainty whether or not the budget would be presented on Wednesday. Later, after consulting all the other parties, it was decided that the budget would be presented as planned.

Before the session, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, “We are saddened” by the death of sitting Parliamentarian and former Union Minister E. Ahamed’s demise, but 2017-18 Budget will be presented in Parliament as planned. “Our member E. Ahamedji was very active person. I just came here after paying him tribute. But we will have to think about both things simultaneously,” Mahajan added.

She further said, “This is a sad incident but Budget is a constitutional thing. So, Budget will be presented. After presidential obligation order things are bound to move on.”

The 78-year-old senior parliamentarian from Kerala, who on Tuesday suffered a heart attack and collapsed in Parliament’s Central Hall during the joint session of both the houses, died after undergoing treatment at the city-based Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital early on Wednesday. Ahamed has served as Minister of State for External Affairs in the UPA government and has been a Lok Sabha member from Malappuram in Kerala since 1991.

Here are the key highlights of Union Budget 2017-18:

  • The overall approach while making the Budget was to spend more in rural areas, infrastructure and poverty alleviation with fiscal prudence.
  • The Budget contains 3 major reforms:
    – First, advancing the Budget date to February 1
    – Merger of the Rail Budget with Union Budget, thereby bringing Railways to the centre stage
    – Has done away with plan and non-plan expenditure
  • Based on the objective to transform, energise and clean India
  • With better Monsoon, Agriculture is expected to grow at 4.1% in current year
  • Issuance of soil health cards have gathered momentum, will set up a mini lab in Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs)
  • A dairy processing infrastructure fund will be created by NABARD
  • 1 crore households to be lifted from poverty
  • 2 new Strategic Oil Reserves to be set up in Odisha and Rajasthan
  • Additional 10 lakh new Point-of-Sale terminals to be issued
  • Payment Regulatory Board to be set up under Central Reserve Bank

For Youth

  • For youth, the Budget proposed to introduce a system of measuring annual learning; Science to be given focus
  • To complete 1,00,00,000 houses by 2019 for houseless and those living in kaccha houses
  • We propose to establish National Testing Agency for entrance exams for higher education. It’ll free CBSE, AICTE etc:
  • 3.5 crore youth to be trained under the livelihood promotion programme Sankalp
  • 5000 additional medical PG seats to be allotted in 2017
  • Two new AIIMS for Jharkhand and Gujarat

The Poor and the Privileged

  • Aim to make 50,000 Gram Panchayat free from poverty
  • For the benefit of women and children, allocation across all schemes stepped up from 1,56,528 cr to 1,84,632 cr
  • The government is planning to complete 1,00,00,000 houses by 2019 for houseless and those living in kaccha houses
  • Mission Antyodaya to bring 1 crore households out of poverty and to make 50,000 Gram Panchayats poverty-free
  • During 2017-18, another 5 lakh ponds will be constructed for drought-proofing
  • Proposal to double the lending target of Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana and set it up at Rs 2.44 lakh crore for 2017-18
  • DigiGov for education, healthcare, and skills to the villages. Smart Villages in the making

Senior Citizen

  • Aadhar based smart cards to be issued for senior citizens, says FM
  • The Government will launch a new health protection scheme which will provide health cover up to Rs 1 lakh per family. For senior citizens of age 60 years and above belonging to this category, an additional top-up package up to Rs 30,000 will be provided
  • Pension schemes offer financial protection to senior citizens. The FM proposes to make withdrawal up to 40% of the corpus at the time of retirement tax exempt in the case of National Pension Scheme

Railways

  • Rail safety fund with corpus of Rs 100,000 crore will be created over the period of 5 years
  • 500 stations to be differently-abled friendly with lifts and escalators
  • Railways to implement end to end transport solution for selected commodities
  • Modernisation of corridors. 500 stations to be made handicapped friendly. Coach Mitra-complaints
  • 1,000 Mw solar capacity to be set up under mission for railways
  • Dedicated trains for tourism and pilgrimage
  • Service booking tax on online railway ticket booking through IRCTC to go. Online bookings up from 58% to 68%
  • By 2019, all coaches of Indian Railways will be fitted with Bio-toilets
  • A new metro rail policy will be announced which will open up new jobs for our youth
  • Railways will integrate end to end transport solutions for selected commodities through partnership
  • Launch of Tejas Express – New product offering for premium customers
  • Encourage employment for SC/ST through horticulture and tree plantation at side of tracks
  • Railway related state-run companies like IRCON and IRCTC to be listed on stock exchanges
  • Unmanned railway level crossings to be eliminated by 2020
  • Railway related state-run companies like IRCON, IRCTC to be listed on stock exchanges

Telecom

  • Telecom sector is an important sector for us. Allotting Rs 10,000 crore for BharatNet

Digitalisation

  • Promotion of Digital Economy an integral part of strategy to clean up system and weed out corruption
  • 125 lakh people have adopted the BHIM app. Two more schemes are being brought to encourage people to use the app.
  • Aadhar enabled payment system to be launched soon; Banks have targeted to introduce additional 10 lakh Point-of-Sale terminals by March 2017
  • Relief to the middle class, promote digital economy, encouraging affordable housing planned

Tax Proposals

  • Fiscal deficit target 3.2%, committed to 3.0% following year
  • Due to demonetisation, advance tax on personal Income tax increased by 34.8%
  • There is an urgent need to protect the poor from chit fund schemes, draft bill placed in public domain
  • Plan to extend basket of financial instruments to which the capital gains can be invested sans payment of tax
  • Capital gains tax to be exempted, for persons holding land from which land was pooled for creation of state capital of Telangana
  • Income tax for small companies with an annual turnover of 50 crore, now to pay 25%—a reduction of 5%
  • Not to remove Minimum Alternative Tax in 2017-18; Propose to allow a carry forward of MAT for a period of 15 years as against 10 years now
  • No transactions above Rs 3 lakh
  • Proposes to reduce basic customs duty on LNG from 5% to 2.5% in 2017-18

Political Parties

  • Maximum cash donation that any party can receive will be Rs 2,000 from one source
  • Political parties will be entitled to receive donations by cheque or in the digital mode from their donors
  • Every political party will have to file their returns

Income Tax

  • Proposes to reduce existing rate of taxation of those with income between 2.5 lakh to 5 lakh from 10% to 5%
  • Surcharge of 10% for those whose annual income is Rs 50 lakh to 1 crore
  • All other categories in subsequent brackets get Rs 12,500 benefit per person
  • No tax for people upto income of 4.5 lakh

    Others

  • Head post offices to be used as front offices of passport service
  • Chandigarh and eight districts of Haryana have been declared kerosene-free
  • Have increased allocation for scientific ministry to Rs 37,435 cr in 2017-18
  • GST Council finalised its recommendations; implementation of GST likely to bring more taxes to Centre, States