India news

On inflation worries, BRI leaves interest rates unchanged

Mumbai, Feb 7: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday kept interest rates unchanged but hinted that monetary conditions are likely to remain tight because of rising risks to inflation. It raised its March-end Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation forecast to 5.1% and projected an inflation range of 5.1-5.6% in the first half of the next fiscal year.

The monetary policy committee of the central bank decided to keep repo rate—at which the RBI infuses liquidity in the banking system—on hold at 6%. Five members of the panel voted to keep rates unchanged, while Michael Patra, executive director at the central bank, wanted to raise rates by 25 basis points. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.

The inflation outlook is “clouded by several uncertainties”, noted the panel. It listed the staggered impact of housing rent allowance increases by the state government, rising prices of crude oil and other commodities owing to a pick-up in global growth, increase in minimum support prices (MSPs) for kharif crops, the budget’s hike in custom duties and the fiscal slippage as several factors.

There is “need for vigilance around the evolving inflation scenario in the coming months”, the panel noted.

However, it voted to maintain the neutral stance of monetary policy, which essentially means future calls on rate direction would be data-driven and in either direction.

Wednesday’s decision comes at a time when inflation as measured by the CPI has been accelerating and has topped 4%, which is the central bank’s medium-term target, for two consecutive months. Latest data shows CPI inflation accelerated to 5.21% in December, the fastest pace in 17 months, from 4.88%. The rise was due to the statistical impact of a low base.

On growth, the RBI has cut the growth projections for the current fiscal to 6.6% from 6.7% earlier. For the next financial year, it has projected gross value added (GVA) growth of 7.2%.

A stabilising goods and services tax (GST) regime, improving credit offtake, rising capital goods production and recapitalisation of banks augur well for growth, the panel noted.

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In a big move, Rs 48000 crore for solar water pumps

If well pitched and well designed by J&K, the scheme could be a game changer for the state

New Delhi, Feb 3, 2018

The solar power pumps scheme announced in the budget to improve farmer income and reduce dependence on diesel pumps will involve an expenditure of about Rs1.4 trillion, power minister Raj Kumar Singh said on Friday.

A central financial assistance of Rs48,000 crore will be given for the scheme named Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM). The balance will be raised by the states, through loans and farmers themselves to generate 28,250 megawatts.

Surplus electricity generated by farmers will be bought by state electricity distribution companies (discoms) and will help boost the country’s emerging green economy.

To make the shift to solar power pumps attractive, said Singh, the capacity of the solar panels will be double that of the present pumps, which would help farmers sell at least 50% of the electricity generated.

The scheme will start with 1.75 million off-grid agricultural solar pumps.

While 30% of the subsidy will be provided by the Union government, an equal amount will come from the states. Another 30% will be met through loans while 10% of the cost will be borne by the farmer.

To improve efficiency and reduce losses, the Union and the state governments will also be leveraging technology for 100% metering and doing away with any human interface in consumer-facing functions such as metering, billing and collection.



Feb 2, 2018 - 5 PM

Ziraat Times News Desk

A day after the Union Budget 2018-19 embraced rural India in a renewed focus on agriculture and primary economy livelihoods, most of the country's stock markets came tumbling down. 

This is being seen as an indication of the investors' nervousness with the government's decision of opening its purse strings and design a populist budget with main focus on the agrarian economy.

The slide down is being part attributed to  reintroduction of long-term capital gains tax in the budget.

It has turned out to be a nerve-chilling Friday, with $70 billion off domestic equities being wiped off, sending shivers down investors' spine.

The combined market capitalisation of all companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) fell by Rs 4.7 lakh crore to Rs 148.4 lakh crore, from just Rs 153.1 lakh crore previously, as bulls gave in to bears. 

A total of 2,500-odd stocks tumbled against 300-odd that managed to rise, suggesting the sell-off was broad based, with smallcap and midcap shares at the receiving end.

The Sensex plummeted 840 points, its biggest single-day fall in two-and-a-half years, while the Nifty ended below the 10,800-mark as the post-Budget sell-off continued for the second straight day.

Long-term capital gains tax on equities and and 10 per cent tax on distributed income from equity-oriented mutual funds dampened the domestic sentiment.

Market mood suffered another setback after Fitch Ratings today said high debt burden of the government constrains India’s rating upgrade.

The S&P BSE Sensex crashed 839.91 points or 2.34 per cent to end at 35,066.75. This is its biggest single session fall since August 24, 2015, when it had lost 1,624.51 points.

The Nifty50 cracked below the 10,800-mark to close down by 256.30 points or 2.33 per cent at 10,760.60. Intra-day, it hit a low of 10,736.10.


February 1, 2018 

6: 15 PM


Javaid Ahmed Tenga, President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), speaking to Ziraat Times, said that the Union Budget 2018-19 was unimpressive for Jammu & Kashmir.  

"Whatever we had asked for in the budget, including monetary support for flood losses, revival of handicrafts sector and conflict insurance, not a single provision has been made in these areas", Mr Tenga said. 

May be some millionaires and billionaires will benefit from it, it has no impact on J&K, he further added. 


Mushtaq Chaya, eminent businessman and President of the Kashmir Committee of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while welcoming the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and other pro farmer initiatives in the budget said that he will be able to comment only after detailed study of the budget.


Aijaz Andrabi, Director Agriculture Department, Kashmir, told Ziraat Times that he was "very impressed with the budget, and by the reforms that have been kick-started." 

"The MSP will be a major step towards stabilizing the economic status of the farmers. While the proposed Food Parks may not benefit the farming community directly, what matters the most is what way the farming community will end up getting more income for their produce", Mr Andrabi further added


Meanwhile, KCCI expresses scepticism for no special allocations for J&K, appreciate provisions for health and education

The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) has expressed scepticism for that the Union budget had nothing for J&K.

In a press statement, President, KCCI, Javid Ahmad Tenga while reacting on the Union Budget said that there was nothing Jammu & Kashmir-specific in this budget. We were expecting the Union Finance Minister to make necessary provisions in this budget to bear the cost of return of J&K based power projects  by NHPC to the state  and as a part of compensation for  Indus Water Treaty.

“The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry  has long been demanding  for provision to be made in the union budget for investment  insurance to provide security for the investment made by the outsider investors in Kashmir, as it being conflict zone, the investors are not otherwise willing to invest in Kashmir,’ the statement reads.

“We however appreciate the provisions made for the health and education sectors of the country,” the statement reads.


JCCI while welcoming the budget, 

feels dejected for no special package for industries in view of the conflict situation and the state's special status.

To engage with Union Finance Ministry along with Kashmir business bodies

President, Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), Rakesh Gupta said that the union budget 2018 was a welcome step towards overall development and GDP growth of the country. It also said it was dejected that two main areas were not covered in this budget.

“The Jammu Chamber President feels that the State of J&K enjoys a special status in the Constitution of India which is being ignored and shall lead to further  deterioration in the growth and law and order situation in the state,” Mr. Gupta said.

He said that "special package for industries in J&K on the pattern of North Eastern States was much expected in the Union budget 2018 as J&K having two  hostile neighbouring countries cannot expect the business people from rest of India to invest in the industrial sector in J&K State and it was only the business people of J&K who are interested to invest more and more in the Industries. This is only possible if special packages and incentives are announced on the pattern of North Eastern States which would lead to job creation in the state of J&K and economy growth.”

Chamber also feels that special social security provisions should have been announced  for the tax payers of the country which could have encouraged more people to participate in paying taxes and at the same time take care of the existing tax payers, he added.

Chamber President also said that very soon the both the Chambers of Jammu & Srinagar shall  jointly as a delegation call upon the concerned people in the seat of power in New Delhi regarding these two utmost important issues.   



Union Budget ignored demand of extension of tax holiday to JK, says FCIK

Federation of Chambers of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) has said that Union Budget has once again ignored demand for extension of tax holiday for J&K.

In a statement FCIK stated that though Union budget is balanced and encouraging but it does not contain any proposal specific to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“FCIK observed that the budget lacked initiatives and proposals that were badly required by the economic sectors of the state for their turn around and growth. A long pending demand of extending tax holiday to the state and declaring it as free economic zone has yet again been ignored and denied. The trade chambers here have now been making this demand for decades owing to the turbulent and un-conducive business environment with frequent interruptions. The FCIK castigates and holds the state government responsible for not pursuing this genuine case of the people with seriousness, the statement reads.

 FCIK while welcoming the initiatives taken for intended revival of MSME sector terms these insufficient given the amount of distress these haves been presently through. 

FCIK, however, is hopeful that the general proposals in the union budget may also benefit the state if the schemes are implemented FCIK however, criticised the finance minister for betraying the middle class for not affording any major and expected relief to them in taxes.


2:00 PM

Peerzada Ashiq - Bureau Chief, The Hindu

"It is a pro poor budget. For the first time you have a health coverage for the people in India. It is the first step towards providing social security cover to people. It is also farmer-centric, considering the decision on the implementation on MSP"


 1: 55 PM: 

Jaitley announced free gas connection for eight crore rural women, Rs 5,750 crore for the National Livelihood Mission in 2018-2019, Rs 2,600 crore for the Har Khet Ko Pani scheme in 2018-2019, and the plan to build two crore toilets in the next fiscal year.

“For creation of livelihood”, Jaitley announced funding of Rs 14.3 lakh crore from “extra budgetary resources”. This appears to be a massive project that will include a number of sectors. The details are not yet clear though as this seems quite high. It could be a combination of existing schemes.


1: 50 PM 

Inayat Jehangir (Bureau Chief, J&K, PTI)

"This budget looks ambitious, with an eye on the forthcoming budget. We might even have early Lok Sabha elections. The healthcare sop is huge. Having said that, the targets set in the budget, like those related to doubling of farm income by 2022, seem unrealistic. There doesn't seem to be any relief for the salaried class. "

On Budget's recommendations with implications on J&K:

"I dont think there was any specific mention in the budget speech about J&K. That doesn't really matter because our state doesn't seem to have a good record as of now in spending the money that is already allocated to the state.

On MSP, this looks like a profound populist measure. The farmers are already struggling on geting good returns on their produce. Their input costs are high. Now with this MSP support, the returns on his investment aren't really too great. 


On the question of the 42 mega food parks, I am not sure if there will be one for J&K. If well implemented farmers could be benefitted. But when it comes to J&K, I am little sceptical because we are even unable to develop the Saffron park that was part of the National Saffrom Mission"


1: 45 PM

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has presented Union Budget 2018-19 in which he has announced that the government is planning to set up an agricultural market fund with corpus of Rs 2,000 crore.


1: 20 PM:

Sheikh Qayoom (Bureau Chief, IANS)

"While the MSP decision could to some extent help in addressing the farmer suicides, however, we need to recognise that in a free market economy it is very difficult to implement the government-supported MSP. Moreover, it is not possible for the government to purchase whole agriculture produce. 

This budget is overall aimed at the next elections, is very populist. The very fact that he chose to speak in Hindi indicates who he was trying to address in his budget speech. 

About Jammu & Kashmir, so far there doesn't appear anything specific to the state." 


1: 00 PM

Shakeel Qalander, industrialist and former president, Federation Chamber of Industries, Kashmir (FCIK). 

On proposals in MSP and their applicability to Jammu & Kashmir:

We have to know the specifics, what these recommendations mean for Jammu & Kashmir. Would the MSP regime be extended to Jammu & Kashmir for all the struggling agri products we are not sure of that as of now. We need to see the details and analyse the recommendations in detail." 


12: 45 PM

Export of agri commodities will be liberalised.

The government will take steps to boost exports of agriculture commodities which have the potential of reaching USD 100 billion, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his budget speech. The country's agricultural exports are around USD 30 billion at present.

"India's agri exports potential is as high as USD 100 billion against a current export of USD 30 billion. To realise this potential, export of agri commodities will be liberalised," Jaitley said while presenting the Union Budget 2018-19 in the Lok Sabha.

He also proposed to set up state-of-the-art facility in 42 mega food parks.

The announcement assumes significance as the commerce ministry is working on a comprehensive policy covering issues such as logistics to promote export of agri commodities like tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables.


12:30 PM

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has set a higher institutional credit target for agriculture for the financial year 2018-19 to Rs 11 lakh crore from Rs 10 lakh crore as the government steps up efforts to ease fund flow for the agriculture sector.

The raised institutional credit target comes amid simmering discontent in India’s villages hit by crashing prices of crops and seasonal shocks, prompting many state government such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Punjab to waive off farm loans worth thousands of crores of rupees.


"It is a very important step towards improving farmers' income and addressing the farm sector distress." 

- Basharat Bukhari, Minister for Agriculture, Jammu & Kashmir    


11: 12 AM Jaitley announces agricultural reforms to double farmers income by 2022. 

"It is a good step. With this target we hope we will be able to address the challenges in the agricultural economy in J&K as well" 

- Basharat Bukhari, Minister for Horticulture, Jammu & Kashmir    


11 AM:

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday announced that the minimum support price (MSP) for all agriculture produce would be fixed at a level to ensure the farmer a minimum return of one and a half times over the production cost.

Farmers in jammu & kashmir have long been asking for a minimum support price on agricultural and horticulture produce from Jammu & Kashmir like paddy, corn, almonds, certain vegetables. etc.


Presenting the Budget for the next fiscal, Jaitley said this measure would go a long way to realise the government's goal of doubling farmers' income by 2022.

Summary of Budget 2018-19

Government says that it is firmly on course to achieve high growth of 8% plus as manufacturing, services and exports are back on good growth path. While GDP growth at 6.3% in the second quarter of 2017-18 signalled turnaround of the economy, growth in the second half is likely to remain between 7.2% to 7.5%.  The Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Shri Arun Jaitley while presenting the General Budget 2018-19 in Parliament today said that Indian society, polity and economy had shown remarkable resilience in adjusting with the structural reforms. IMF, in its latest Update, has forecast that India will grow at 7.4% next year in the backdrop of services resuming high growth rates of 8% plus, exports expected to grow at 15% in 2017-18 and manufacturing back on good growth path.

Reiterating the pledge given to the people of India four years ago to give this nation an honest, clean and transparent Government and to build a strong, confident and a New India, Shri Jaitley said, the Government led by Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has successfully implemented a series of fundamental structural reforms to propel India among the fastest growing economies of the world.

The Finance Minister said that Government has taken up programmes to direct the benefits of structural changes and good growth to reach farmers, poor and other vulnerable sections of our society and to uplift the under-developed regions. He said, this year’s Budget will consolidate these gains and particularly focus on strengthening agriculture and rural economy, provision of good health care to economically less privileged, taking care of senior citizens, infrastructure creation and working with the States to provide more resources for improving the quality of education in the country. He said, the Government has ensured that benefits reach eligible beneficiaries and are delivered to them directly and said that Direct Benefit Transfer mechanism of India is the biggest such exercise in the world and is a global success story.


Agriculture and Rural Economy in Jaitley's Budget 2018-19

Referring to the Government’s commitment to the welfare of farmers and doubling farmers’ income by 2022, the Finance Minister announced a slew of new schemes and measures.

He said ,that government has decided to keep MSP for all unannounced kharif crops atleast one and half times of their production cost after declaring the same for the majority of rabi cops. He said,the volume of institutional credit for agriculture sector from year-to-year increased from Rs.8.5 lakh crore in 2014-15 to Rs.10 lakh crore in 2017-18 and he proposed to raise this to Rs.11 lakh crore for the year 2018-19.  

After the establishment of Dairy Infrastructure Fund, Shri Jaitley announced setting up a Fisheries and Aqua culture Infrastructure Development Fund (FAIDF) for fisheries sector and an Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) for financing infrastructure requirement of animal husbandry sector with a total corpus of  Rs.10,000 crore for the two new funds.  

On the lines of ‘‘Operation Flood’’ a new Scheme ‘‘Operation Greens’’ was announced with an outlay of Rs 500 Crore to address the challenge of price volatility of perishable commodities like tomato, onion and potato with the satisfaction of both the farmers and consumers. He also announced to develop and upgrade existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) to take care of the interests of more  than 86% small and marginal farmers. 

These GrAMs, electronically linked to e-NAM and exempted from regulations of APMCs, will provide farmers facility to make direct sale to consumers and bulk purchasers. Moreover, an Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund with a corpus of Rs.2000 crore will be setup for developing and upgrading agricultural marketing infrastructure in the 22000 Grameen Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) and 585APMCs. He said, so far 470 APMCs have been connected to e-NAM network and rest will be connected by March, 2018.  

Jaitley announced Rs 200 crore  for organized cultivation of  highly specialized medicinal and aromatic plants and said that the organic farming by Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and Village Producers’ Organizations (VPOs) in large clusters, preferably of 1000 hectares each will be encouraged. Similarly, allocation of Ministry of Food Processing has been doubled from Rs.715 crore in 2017-18 to Rs.1400 crore in 2018-19. Terming Bamboo as ‘Green Gold’, the Finance Minister announced a Re-structured National Bamboo Mission with an outlay of Rs.1290 crore to promote bamboo sector in a holistic manner. 

Under  Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojna-Har Khet ko Pani, 96 deprived irrigation districts will be taken up with an allocation of Rs 2600 crore. The Centre will work with the state governments to facilitate farmers for installing solar water pumps to irrigate their fields. He also proposed to extend the facility of Kisan Credit Cards to fisheries and animal husbandry farmers to help them meet their working capital needs. 

Jaitley said India’s agri-exports potential is as high as US $100 billion against current exports of US $30 billion and to realize this potential, export of agri-commodities will be liberalized. He also proposed to set up state-of-the-art testing facilities in all the forty two Mega Food Parks. He also announced a special Scheme to support the efforts of the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the NCT of Delhi to address air pollution  in the Delhi-NCR region by  subsidizing machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue.

Tax Incentive for Promoting Post-Harvest Activities of Agriculture

In order to encourage professionalism in post-harvest value addition in agriculture, the Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs,  Arun Jaitley proposed to allow hundred per cent deduction to companies registered as Farmer Producer Companies and having annual turnover up to Rs.100 crores in respect of their profit derived from such activities for a period of five years from financial year 2018-19. 

The Finance Minister mentioned that at present, hundred per cent deduction is allowed in respect of profit of co-operative societies which provide assistance to its members engaged in primary agricultural activities. Over the last few years, a number of Farmer Producer Companies have been set-up along the lines of co-operative societies which also provide similar assistance to their members. Thus, Shri Jaitley said, such tax incentive will encourage “Operation Greens” mission announced earlier and it will give a boost to Sampada Yojana.

Budget 2018-19: Other initiatives announced

On the loans to Self Help Groups of women, the Finance Minister said it increased to about Rupees 42,500 crore in 2016-17, growing 37% over previous year and expressed confidence that  loans to SHGs will increase to Rs.75,000 crore by March, 2019. He also substantially increased allocation of National Rural Livelihood Mission to Rs 5750 crore in 2018-19.

Referring to the measures taken for the benefit of lower and middle class, the Finance Minister said, under Ujjwala Scheme distribution of free LPG connections will be given to 8 crore poor women instead of the previous target of  5 crore women. 

Under Saubahagya Yojana, 4 crore poor households are being provided with electricity connection with an outlay of Rs.16,000 crore. To fulfil target of housing for All by 2022 ,more than one crore houses will be built by 2019 in rural areas, besides already constructed 6 crore toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission.   

Jaitley stressed that the focus of the Government next year will be on providing maximum livelihood opportunities in the rural areas by spending more on livelihood, agriculture and allied activities and construction of rural infrastructure. 

He said, in the year 2018-19, for creation of livelihood and infrastructure in rural areas, total amount to be spent by the Ministries will be Rs.14.34 lakh crore, including extra-budgetary and non-budgetary resources of Rs.11.98 lakh crore.  

Apart from employment due to farming activities and self employment, this expenditure will create employment of 321 crore person days, 3.17 lakh kilometers of rural roads, 51 lakh new rural houses, 1.88 crore toilets, and provide 1.75 crore new household electric connections besides boosting agricultural growth.

Other things related to primary economy that Jaitley unveiled

L​aunch of Gobar-Dhan Scheme announced to improve lives of villagers

In an effort to make the villages open defecation free and improving the lives of villagers, the Finance Minister in his budget speech today announced the launch of Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBAR-DHAN) . The Minister added that this will manage and convert cattle dung and solid waste in farms to compost, bio-gas and bio-CNG.


The Finance Minister also announced that 187 projects have been sanctioned under Namami Gange Programme for infrastructure development, reverse surface cleaning, rural sanitation and other interventions at a cost of Rs.16, 713 crore.  47 projects have been completed and remaining projects are at various stages of execution  All 4465 Ganga Grams villages on the bank of river have been declared open defecation free.

To achieve the vision of an inclusive society, the Government has identified 115 aspirational districts taking various indices of development in consideration,  aiming at improving the quality of life in these districts by investing in social services like health, education, nutrition, skill up gradation, financial inclusion and infrastructure like irrigation, rural electrification, potable drinking water and access to toilets at an accelerated pace and in a time bound manner.  These 115 districts are expected to become model of development, the Finance Minister added.-


Total expenditure for the fiscal year 2018-19 is estimated to be over Rs 24.42 lakh crore

The Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley while presenting the General Budget for 2018-19 in Parliament here today, said that this Budget reflects the government’s firm commitment to substantially boost investment in Agriculture, social sector, Digital Payments, Infrastructure and Employment Generation while simultaneously sticking to the path of fiscal rectitude. The Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitely said that the government’s commitment is substantiated by increase in expenditure of Rs 2,24,463 crores over RE (2017-18). He said the aim is for a reduction of Fiscal Deficit by 0.2% of GDP over RE 2017-18. He projected a Fiscal Deficit of 3.3% of GDP for the year 2018-19.

The Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley said that the present Government assumed office in May, 2014 when fiscal deficit was running at very high levels. Fiscal Deficit for 2013-14 was 4.4% of GDP.  The Prime Minister and the Government have always attached utmost priority to prudent fiscal management and controlling fiscal deficit. He said that the present Government has embarked on the path of consistent fiscal reduction and consolidation in 2014.  

Fiscal Deficit was brought down to 4.1% in 2014-15 to 3.9% in 2015-16, and to 3.5% in 2016-17.  Revised Fiscal Deficit estimates for 2017-18 are Rs. 5.95 lakh crore at 3.5% of GDP.

The Finance Minister said that in order to impart unquestionable credibility to the Government’s commitment for the revised fiscal glide path, he is proposing to accept key recommendations of the Fiscal Reform and Budget Management (FRBM) Committee relating to adoption of the Debt Rule and to bring down the Central Government’s Debt to GDP ratio to 40%. The Government has also accepted the recommendation to use Fiscal Deficit target as the key operational parameter. Necessary amendment proposals are included in the Finance Bill, Shri Jaitley pointed out.


Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley presents general Budget 2018-19 in Parliament.

  • Budget guided by mission to strengthen agriculture, rural development, health, education, employment, MSME and infrastructure sectors
  • Government says, a series of structural reforms will propel India among the fastest growing economies of the world. Country firmly on course to achieve over 8 % growth as manufacturing, services and exports back on good growth path.
  • MSP for all unannounced kharif crops will be one and half times of their production cost like majority of rabi crops: Institutional Farm Credit raised to 11 lakh crore in 2018-19 from 8.5 lakh crore in 2014-15.
  • 22,000 rural haats to be developed and upgraded into Gramin Agricultural Markets to protect the interests of 86% small and marginal farmers.
  • “Operation Greens” launched to address price fluctuations in potato, tomato and onion for benefit of farmers and consumers.
  • Two New Funds of Rs10,000 crore announced for Fisheries and Animal Husbandary sectors;   Re-structured National Bamboo Mission gets  Rs.1290 crore.
  • Loans to Women Self Help Groups will increase to Rs.75,000 crore in 2019 from 42,500 crore last year.
  • Higher targets for Ujjwala, Saubhagya and Swachh Mission to cater to  lower and middle class in providing free LPG connections, electricity and toilets.
  • Outlay on health, education and social protection  will be 1.38 lakh crore. Tribal students to get Ekalavya Residential School in each tribal block by 2022. Welfare fund for SCs gets a boost.
  • World’s largest Health Protection Scheme covering over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families launched with a family limit upto 5 lakh rupees for secondary and tertiary treatment.
  • Fiscal Deficit pegged at 3.5 %, projected at 3.3 % for 2018-19.
  • Rs. 5.97 lakh crore allocation for infrastructure
  • Ten prominent sites to be developed as Iconic tourist destinations
  • NITI Aayog to initiate a national programme on Artificial Intelligence(AI)
  • Centres of excellence to be set up on robotics, AI, Internet of things etc
  • Disinvestment crossed target of Rs 72,500 crore to reach Rs 1,00,000 crore
  • Comprehensive Gold Policy on the anvil to develop yellow metal as an asset class
  • 100 percent deduction proposed to companies registered as Farmer Producer Companies with an annual turnover upto Rs. 100 crore on profit derived from such activities, for five years from 2018-19.
  • Deduction of 30 percent on emoluments paid to new employees Under Section 80-JJAA to be relaxed to 150 days for footwear and leather industry, to create more employment.
  •  No adjustment in respect of transactions in immovable property where Circle Rate value does not exceed 5 percent of consideration.
  • Proposal to extend reduced rate of 25 percent currently available for companies with turnover of less than 50 crore (in Financial Year 2015-16), to companies reporting turnover up to Rs. 250 crore in Financial Year 2016-17,  to benefit micro, small and medium enterprises.
  • Standard Deduction of Rs. 40,000 in place of present exemption for transport allowance and reimbursement of miscellaneous medical expenses. 2.5 crore salaried employees and pensioners to benefit.
  • Relief to Senior Citizens  proposed:-
  • Exemption of interest income on deposits with banks and post offices to be increased from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 50,000.
  • TDS  not required to be deducted under section 194A. Benefit also available for interest from all fixed deposit schemes and recurring deposit schemes.
  • Hike in deduction limit for health insurance premium and/ or medical expenditure from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 50,000 under section 80D.
  • Increase in deduction limit for medical expenditure for certain critical illness from Rs. 60,000 (in case of senior citizens) and from Rs. 80,000 (in case of very senior citizens) to Rs. 1 lakh for all senior citizens, under section 80DDB.
  • Proposed to extend Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana up to March, 2020. Current investment limit  proposed to be increased to Rs. 15 lakh from the existing limit of Rs. 7.5 lakh per senior citizen.
  • More concessions for International Financial Services Centre (IFSC),  to promote trade in stock exchanges located in IFSC.
  • To control cash economy, payments exceeding Rs. 10,000  in  cash made by trusts and institutions to be disallowed and would be subject to tax.
  •  Tax on Long Term Capital Gains exceeding Rs. 1 lakh at the rate of 10 percent, without allowing any indexation benefit. However, all gains up to 31st January, 2018 will be grandfathered.
  •  Proposal to introduce tax on distributed income by equity oriented mutual funds at the rate of 10 percent.
  • Proposal to increase cess on personal income tax and corporation tax to 4 percent from  present 3 percent.
  •  Proposal to roll out E-assessment across the country to almost eliminate person to person contact leading to greater efficiency and transparency in direct tax collection.
  •  Proposed changes in customs duty to promote creation of more jobs in the country  and also to incentivise domestic value addition and Make in India in sectors such as food processing, electronics, auto components, footwear and furniture.

Why Union Budget 2018-19 may focus on farm sector

New Delhi, Dec 22: India's government will likely increase funding for the farm and rural sectors in the budget for the coming fiscal year, finance ministry officials said, to shore up political support in the countryside ahead of a raft of elections.

"The next budget will focus on farmers, rural jobs and infrastructure while making all attempts to follow a fiscal prudence path," a senior finance ministry official told Reuters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government won an election in his home state of Gujarat this week, but only just as it faced discontent fuelled by falling farm incomes and a lack of jobs.

In 2018 and early 2019, there will be eight state elections in the heartland, leading up to a national election in 2019.

On February 1, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to present his last full-year budget, for the 2018/19 year that begins April 1.

Annual farm growth dipped to 1.7 per cent in the second quarter ending September, mainly on lower prices and output, while economic growth accelerated to 6.3 per cent after growing at a three-year low of 5.7 per cent in the previous quarter.

"The government can't afford farmers' anger anymore, and will try to boost the economic growth and pump in more funds in the farm sector," the official said. "It will not be a populist but a pragmatic budget."

Jaitley has signalled that his priority will be allocating more funds for rural and infrastructure sectors.


Modi has indicated that he would like to achieve 7.5 Budget may focus on rural areas post Narendra Modi's narrow victory in Gujarat to 8 per cent annual economic growth before entering the election campaign, said another official.

An aide to Modi said, "Every attempt is being made to make it a populist budget."

Higher procurement prices for different crops could be offered to farmers following lower output this year. There will be tax reforms, the aide said, referring to corporate demand to lower tax rates.

The government, which faced a severe revenue shortfall after the chaotic launch of a new Goods and Services Tax (GST) in July, plans to increase this fiscal year's target of receipts from the privatisation of state firms by one-fourth to a record Rs 1 trillion ($15.60 billion).

"The target (share-sale) will be revised soon as we expect to receive about Rs 400 billion from Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) by March for the sale of the government stake in Hindustan Petroleum Corp," another senior finance ministry official said.

Both ministry officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

By December 15, the government had raised near $8 billion from the sale of shares in companies, more than 70 per cent of the full-year target.


Modi, who has pushed reforms like the GST, cuts in state subsidies and allowing more foreign investment in new sectors, faces a challenge to create jobs for millions of youths.

Officials said allocations for farm and rural development ministries could be hiked by at least 20 per cent in the next fiscal year.

The coming budget is likely to enhance allocations for the transport and railways ministries by one-fourth to near Rs 1.5 trillion, one of the ministry officials said.

Officials said the finance ministry could defer some spending to the next fiscal year to maintain the current year's fiscal deficit at 3.2 per cent of gross domestic product.

"The government could easily save about Rs 300 billion from different ministries as all will not able to spend the allocated money," said the official.

It is not clear whether the deficit target for the current year would be met, but a "pragmatic" view would be taken on next year's target of 3 per cent of GDP, the officials said.

Final decisions on the coming budget will be taken by Modi, they said.


Budget 2018-19: ZT special coverage

Drabu reviews Budget proposals for fiscal 2017-18

ZT News 

Srinagar, Dec 19: Minister for Finance, Labour & Employment, Dr Haseeb A Drabu reviewed implementation of the Budget proposals on for the fiscal 2017-18 at a meeting of the administrative secretaries on Tuesday.

In a Statement spokesman said, Home Secretary R K Goyal, Principal Secretary Finance Navin K Choudhary, Principal Secretary Higher Education Asgar Samoon, Principal Secretary Health & Medical Education Dr Pawan Kotwal, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Rohit Kansal, besides all the administrative secretaries and senior officers of the Finance Department were present at the meeting.

He said, Dr Drabu sought department-wise details of progress made on the budget announcements and asked the administrative secretaries to ensure utilization of funds allocated under each proposal effectively and in a judicious manner.

While seeking progress report on implementation of computerized budgeting mechanism – ‘Budget Estimation, Allocation and Monitoring System’ (BEAMS), the meeting was informed that all the departments have adopted this computerized budgeting system to distribute the resources and authorize expenditure.

Dr Drabu reiterated that for 2018-19 only such works will be made a part of capital outlay and the annual budget for which the required DPR is completed and other necessary sanctions have been obtained. He asked the administrative secretaries to strictly follow the proposed procedure for better planning and execution of the developmental works.

Regarding inventory of land, buildings, machinery, equipment and other government assets, the Minister asked the participants to expedite the process so that the Government can get a sense of asset base of all the departments.

“Earlier the focus was on creation of assets especially buildings without knowing what kind of services these structures will provide, but now want to first get a clear picture of total asset value of each department besides effective utilization of these assets for larger public good,” Dr Drabu said.

“With regard to the revision and updating of Recruitment Rules, the Minister sought the progress department-wise and directed the ARI & Trainings department to expedite the process so that the job requirements are aligned with the requisite professional qualifications.”

While discussing the utilization of allocated funds, Dr Drabu said the funds should be drawn and utilized accordingly otherwise there is no need of reflecting the same during budget requirements.

The Minister also discussed in detail the major announcements/projects with the concerned administrative secretaries and asked them to expedite the implementation process.

Elaborate discussions were held on the important announcements made for some key departments including Industries & Commerce, PDD, Health, Agriculture, Revenue, Horticulture and Culture.

The Minister asked the administrative secretaries to personally monitor the progress on their implementation and to submit the action taken report on these announcements to his office at the earliest, said spokesman in a statement. 

Agri experts pitch for income security for farmers in Union Budget

 New Delhi, Dec 7: Agriculture experts today made a case for providing income security to farmers at pre-Budget consultations with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.  

 Agriculture provides employment to 48.9 per cent of the total work force in India although their contribution to the GDP is less than 20 per cent.  

 According to Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA) Secretary General B Dasaratha Rami Reddy, there is a need for Income Security Act for farmers, tenant farmers and farm labourers.  

 "The median income of farmers in 2012 was about Rs 1,600 per month, which is meagre to sustain... Hence, the farming community of India demands Income Security Act for farmers as well as tenant and farm labours," he said after the meeting.  

 This was the first pre-Budget meeting with stakeholders and more such discussions will take place in the coming days with other sectors and stakeholders.  

 The Union Budget 2018-19 is likely to be presented in Parliament on February 1.  
The government should think of providing social security like pension to farmers, said Y Sivaji, an agriculture expert and a former member of parliament.  

 Experts also demanded removal of Essential Commodities Act and bringing all agriculture inputs and equipment under zero per cent under Goods and Services Tax (GST).  

 CIFA also raised the issue of cigarettes being smuggled into the country and hampering the interest of tobacco farmers.  
"Due to high excise duty on domestic cigarettes there is large scale smuggling of cigarettes. This is leading to subdued demand for tobacco. As a result the income of these farmers are hugely impacted. We seek that the government control smuggling, and through other measures, so that producers get good price," he said.  

 Ashok Gulati, an agricultural economist, also present at the meeting, said that buffer stocking of those commodities needs to be done whose prices are trading below their minimum support price so as to control food inflation.  

 "In the last three years agricultural growth has fallen below 3 per cent. Some commodity prices have gone below minimum selling price. We have discussed addressing the issue of commodity price volatility. We also discussed how to dovetail the tariff policy and minimum selling price," he said.  

 Gulati also said that farm loan waiver for farmers is not the solution to the present problems and structural reforms in agriculture is important rather than farm loans waiver.  

 There were demands for increasing credit growth for the farm sector and effective implementation of crop insurance and irrigation projects.  

 Besides Jaitley, the meeting was also attended by top finance ministry officials including Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, Expenditure Secretary A N Jha and Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar.  

J&K budget session to begin from January 2

Srinagar, Dec 13: The Budget Session of the Jammu and Kashmir legislature will begin on January 2, a Raj Bhawan spokesman said today. 

Governor N N Vohra has summoned the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council to meet at Jammu winter capital on January 2 at 1100 hours, the spokesman said.

The period of the Budget Session was yet to be decided.

"We have not yet decided the period of the Budget Session. The decision will be taken by the government," Speaker of J-K Legislative Assembly, Kavinder Gupta, told PTI.

The governor has urged members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council to assemble in the Central Hall for his address to both the Houses.

After the said address, each House of the legislature will meet as a separate body at the time to be specified by the respective presiding officers, the spokesman said.

Government invites start-ups for agri-tech solutions, experts see opportunities for J&K

ZT Research Team 

The government will partner with start-ups for a potential solution in some of the key areas of agriculture procurement and supply-chain

New Delhi, Dec 16: The government is inviting Indian start-ups to present solutions in some of the key areas of agriculture procurement and supply-chain, some of which it will help develop and bring to the market.

Agricultural and entrepreneurship experts in Jammu & Kashmir see potential in engaging in the exercise for encouraging technology start-ups in agriculture sector in Jammu & Kashmir. 

The Department of Agriculture has come out with 12 problem statements, under each of which it will partner with one or more start-ups for a potential solution.

This includes developing a sensor-based product for soil testing, an assaying and grading solution for local commodity markets, cold storage, and a system to better forecast prices of key commodities such as pulses and oilseeds.

It is also exploring models for a nationwide online marketplace that connects farmers or agri-entrepreneurs directly with the food processors.

“We met over 40 agri-tech start-ups in PM’s Champions of Change event in August, and wanted to explore a more meaningful engagement, where start-ups can present solutions to some of the things we are already developing,” said Upma Srivastava, additional secretary at ministry of agriculture and family welfare.

The ministry will accept applications for the program over a month-long period starting Friday. The entries will be reviewed by an expert panel, which may involve start-ups being asked to present their technologies in-person to designated experts.

Start-ups chosen through the program will proceed to join a relevant hand-holding agency to scale their offerings. This should happen by March next year, Srivastava said.

Research bodies such as International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Directorate of Marketing & Inspection (DMI), and private incubators Villgro and Qualcomm are tasked to offer the mentoring support.

Union Budget 2018-19: Jaitley kicks off pre-budget talks with farmer groups

ZT News 

New Delhi, Dec 7: In the run up to the budget 2018-19, union finance minister Arun Jaitley met trade unions and farmers groups on Tuesday. 

To achieve the goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 there was need to improve storage and marketing facilities for agri produce so that farmers get better price, quoting Jaitley, a statement issued by the finance ministry said.

 He said there was need for water conservation, incentivising agro processing and balanced use of fertilisers in order to ensure higher agriculture productivity.  

 During the discussions, farmers’ groups noted that while India has constantly pursued ‘Food Policy’ the Budget 2018-19 was an opportunity to shift to ‘Farmers’ Policy’. There is a need to reduce pressure on the land by creating off-farm jobs, farmers further said.

 A ‘Price Deficiency Payment Mechanism’ was suggested for those crops where procurement cannot be ensured to provide more remunerative prices to farmers.  
Other suggestions included an ‘Agriculture Debt Relief Package for the entire country, deeper focus on dairy, fruit and vegetable items, starting ‘Operation Veggies’. The focus should be on TOP —Tomato, Onion and Potato — as there is maximum volatility in their prices.