A please-all budget is the antithesis of a progressive budget, while a growth-oriented budget cares for the interests of the nation. When the nation grows, individuals benefit by way of a trickle-down effect. The growth of the nation and the individuals are, therefore, supplementary and complementary to each other. The Narendra Modi government had, through its past nine years, sought to balance between the interests of the nation and the aspirations of the people. Hence, when the world is caught in a fresh bout of recessionary trends, India keeps its head up. The national economy is registering an impressive 6 per cent growth and the deficit is progressively brought down. While the base for Modern India was laid by successive governments since the 1990s, the Modi government carried this push forward. It, however, so happened that the rich have become richer and the poor benefited only marginally. The problem is also the population bulge, at nearly 1.4 billion. The Union Budget for 2023-24 must be seen against this backdrop.

The budget introduced in Parliament on Wednesday by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has its major emphasis on infrastructure development, which would uplift the nation and indirectly reach its benefits in both immediate and long-term to the people. The priorities under the Saptarshi vision to turn India into the level of an advanced nation by year 2047 – the hundredth year of Independence – has its focus on infra development, health care, education and women empowerment with major emphasis also on the farm sector growth. The budget also lays stress on skill development, encouragement to agriculture start-ups including rural start-ups, widening the reach of 5G, tribal empowerment, major allocations for fisheries sector etc.

A 30 per cent hike has been effected in the allocations for infra development, which would also mean a big push to the MSME sector that has the potential to create jobs on a massive scale. Some 50 new airports have been planned against the present 137. The railway sector got Rs 2.40 lakh crore, the highest-ever allocation. A 15,000 crore rupees allocation for tribal development is targeted also at the upcoming elections in the North-East just as a Rs 5,300 crore offer made to poll-bound Karnataka for irrigation purposes. The allocations for MGNREGA job guarantee scheme for rural areas have been cut by one-fifth, which is being highlighted by the opposition as a major “flaw” in the budget proposals. Such cuts have helped in earmarking funds for infra development and ensuring a 13 per cent hike in defence allocations. The income tax structure has been simplified and the resultant burden on a major segment of the population reduced. On the whole this seems like a good budget.

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