The Union Budget 2022-23 comes on the eve of elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa. Expectations were high for a boost in rural development and agriculture spending. However, did the budget announcements meet expectations? What does it have in store for sustainable and rural development of our nation?
“With our provision for public investment in the last budget, this budget continues to provide multiplier effect which will benefit youth farmer, SCs, STs, women and poor,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated at the opening of the budget presentation today.
Natural farming and agtech startups
She stated in her budget speech, “Inclusive development is the government’s priority which includes procurement of wheat, paddy, kharif and rabi crops, benefitting over 1 crore farmers. Chemical free, natural farming will be promoted throughout the country, beginning with 5 km-wide corridors along the river Ganga. For farmers to adopt natural farming, a comprehensive package for participation of state governments and MSMEs to be introduced.”
“Use of Kisan Drones for crop assessments, land records, spraying of insecticides is expected to drive a wave of technology in agriculture and farming sector. Fund to be facilitated through NABARD to finance start-ups for agriculture and rural enterprise, relevant for farm produce value chain start-ups will support FPOs, provide tech to farmers,” she said.
Sitharaman proposed to launch a new scheme PM Development Initiative for North East, to promote the growth of the region. She also said that villages on the northern border of India will be covered under a new vibrant village programme to enhance development.
An open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem will be rolled out. It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities.
Sitharaman announced the launch of a National Tele Mental Health programme in view of the toll that the pandemic has taken on the mental wellbeing of citizens. “An open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem will be rolled out. It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities. The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. To better the access to quality mental health counselling and care services, a National Tele Mental Health programme will be launched,” she said while presenting the Union Budget 2022-23 in the Parliament. She added, “This will include a network of 23 tele mental health centres of excellence with NIMHANS being the nodal centre and IIIT Bangalore providing technical support.” For women and child development, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that 2 lakh Anganwadis will be upgraded with better facilities.
Primary and higher education
The total budget allocation for the two departments of the Ministry of Education -school and higher education is Rs 1,04,277.72 crore, a 11.85% increase. Total funds to “student financial aid” has been cut from Rs 2,482.32 crore in the budget estimates for 2021-22 to Rs 2,077.85 crore in the next financial year.
The FM announced the establishment of a Digital University along with other initiatives to improve digital education in the country. A high quality e-content will be introduced in all spoken languages in the country. World class universities will be allowed to offer courses in financial management, financial technology, science, and technology, free of Indian regulations, Sitharaman further said.
Digital ecosystem for skill development
The minister announced a “realignment” of the National Skill Qualification Framework with dynamic industry needs and added that employability will be boosted with the help of skilling programmes and partnerships with the industry. Sitharaman talked about the launch of an e-portal for a digital ecosystem for skilling and livelihood. Called DESH STACK, the e-portal will aid in skilling, upskilling and reskilling. “It will also provide API-based trusted skill credentials, trusted skills credentials, payment and discovery layers to find relevant jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities,” she said in her speech.
Climate change action
Speaking on climate change, she said “The risks of climate change are the strongest negative externalities that affect India and other countries”. For this sector, the government will commence four pilot projects for coal gasification and conversion of coal into chemicals to enhance technical and financial viability. On energy transition plans, the government announced the allocation of Rs. 19,500 crores under the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to facilitate domestic manufacturing to achieve the target of 280 GW by 2030. “The strategy opens up a huge employment opportunity and will take the country on a sustainable path”, the FM said in her budget speech.
The government will step up initiatives to boost EV infrastructure and EV ecosystem to achieve its broader decarbonisation goals. The FM said, “The private sector will be encouraged to create sustainable and innovative business models for battery and energy as a service, improving the efficiency of the EV ecosystem.”
She also talked about battery swapping as an alternative to charging stations. “To promote a shift to the use of public transport in urban areas, special mobility zones with zero fossil fuel policy to be introduced. Considering the constraint of space in urban areas for setting up charging stations, battery swapping policy will be brought out and interoperability standards will be formalised,” Nirmala Sitharaman said in her budget speech.
RAMP programme for MSMEs
Sitharaman in her budget speech said that the Rs 6,000- crore Raising and Accelerating MSME Performance (RAMP) programme for MSMEs will be rolled out in the coming five years. The minister said the programme would improve the competitiveness and productivity of MSMEs. The World Bank in June last year had approved $500 million for the programme to support the government to revitalize the MSMEs heavily impacted by the Covid crisis. RAMP is the second intervention by the World Bank for the MSME sector. In June 2020, it had approved a $750 million MSME Emergency Response programme to support the increased flow of finance to MSMEs impacted by Covid.
Digital rupee based on blockchain tech
The Reserve Bank of India will introduce digital rupee based on blockchain technology in 2022, Sitharaman announced in her budget speech. RBI is expected to use blockchain technology in introducing what is popularly called Central bank digital currency (CBDC). Digital rupee is expected to give a boost to India’s economy and will help in promoting blockchain technology ecosystem in the country.