Jaitley breaks ice, walks up to opposition before budget
NEW DELHI, FEBFUARY 28
The government sought to reach out to the opposition ahead of the budget presentation in the Lok Sabha Saturday with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley walking up to the opposition benches and chatting with senior leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Jaitley entered the house a good 10 minutes before his budget speech and spoke with Gandhi and other leaders, including Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath.
Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who sits next to Sonia Gandhi, also shook hands with the finance minister, who was then seen having a conversation with former union minister Kamal Nath.The Congress leader in fact followed Jaitley back to his seat.
Opposition leaders have been up in arms against the ordinance to amend the land acquisition bill. The government has been trying to reach out to many parties, specially the Congress to get the bill passed.
Many MPs had to squeeze into their seats with the Lok Sabha witnessing a full house in view of the budget and a few found accommodation only with difficulty.
Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, who came in at least five minutes after the speech had begun was accommodated by Health Minister J.P. Nadda who quickly vacated his seat for her.
While Nadda went and sat elsewhere, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was sitting next to him, found himself flanked by two formidable women – Uma Bharti and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.
A smiling Parrikar leaned forward to let the women have a conversation.
Jaitley, who had undergone a surgery last year, was asked by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan whether he wanted to continue with his speech while sitting.
To this, the finance minister replied that he would “seek the chair’s permission if required”. But soon thereafter he sat down for most of his one-and-a-half hour speech though he got up again before finishing.
Many members of an otherwise quiet opposition protested when the finance minister announced turning certain heritage sites into tourist destinations.
Trinamool Congress MPs, who were seen protesting that their state doesn’t find mention in the heritage places list, fell silent after West Bengal was given a special development grant.
Some terms, which the finance minister used, left not only the layman but also some MPs clueless.
For example when Jaitley announced the GIFT in Gujarat, opposition MPs were seen shouting “what is that”.
GIFT or Gujarat International Finance Tec-City has been envisaged as an international finance centre, which would have avenues to fully exhibit and exploit India’s financial acumen.
As soon as the house broke up after the budget speech, NDA leaders came up to congratulate Jaitley.
However, the biggest pat on the back was from veteran leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was listening to the speech with his earphones on, also congratulated the finance minister.
MEA gets 18.5 percent higher allocation
The external affairs ministry saw an 18.5 percent increase in its budgetary allocation for 2015-16, with embassies and missions getting higher allocation as well as cooperation with the ASEAN as part of India’s Act East policy.
In the union budget presented Saturday, the MEA allocation was increased from Rs.12,620 crore to Rs.14,966.83 crore.
Under the head ’embassies and missions’, the allocation was increased from Rs.2,021.91 crore to Rs.2,265.01 crore.
International cooperation got an increased allocation – from Rs.302.89 crore to Rs.386.03 crore.
Under the head ‘Technical and Economic Cooperation with other countries and Advances to Foreign Governments’, aid to Bangladesh has been hiked from Rs.198 crore to Rs.250 crore and to Bhutan, from Rs.4,871.59 crore to Rs.6,160.20 crore.
Under the head ‘ASEAN Multilateral’, the allocation was hiked from Rs.12,620 crore to Rs.14,966.83 crore.
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, which is also looked after by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, saw a hike in allocation from Rs.99 crore to Rs.118.17 crore.
Nirbhaya fund raised to Rs 2,000 crore: Jaitley
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Saturday doubled the Nirbhaya fund to Rs 2,000 crore from Rs. 1,000 crore.
“My Government is committed to safety and security of women. In order to support programmes for women security, advocacy and awareness, I have decided to provide another 1,000 crore to the Nirbhaya Fund,” Jaitley said while presenting the budget in the Lok Sabha.
The Rs 1,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund had been announced in 2013 by the Congress-led UPA government for the empowerment, safety and security of women and girl child.
It was created in the memory of a young woman who died after being brutally gang raped in a moving bus in Delhi Dec 16, 2012, leading to protests in different parts of the country over the abysmal state of women`s safety.
India hikes defence spend 7 percent to Rs.246,727 crore
India Saturday hiked its defence allocation by a modest 7.74 percent to Rs.246,727 crore ($40 billion), with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley declaring that “defence of every inch of our land is above everything else”.
Presenting the budget proposals for 2015-16 in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley said the government was following a policy of transparency and quick decision-making in procurement to keep the defence forces prepared for any eventuality.
He said the government was pushing for Make in India policy in defence manufacturing to reduce dependence on imports.
The allocation is a mere Rs.17,727 crore over the Rs.229,000 crore Jaitley had provided in his maiden budget last July.
As usual, the 13-lakh-strong Indian Army has received Rs.1,04,158 crore — a hike of Rs.5,846 from the revised estimate of Rs.98,310 crore in 2014-15.
At Rs.23,000 crore, the Indian Air Force allocation is Rs.2,815 crore higher than that of the previous fiscal, while the Indian Navy, at Rs.15,525 crore, has seen a small rise of Rs.1,590 crore.
As for the War Memorial and War Museum, for which Jaitley, then also the defence minister, had allocated Rs.100 crore in his previous budget, a separate implementation document circulated along with the budget paper, said the draft cabinet note for this was “under preparation”.
There has also been little progress in implementing the one-rank-one-pay scheme, for which an additional Rs.1,000 crore had been allocated in the last budget, with the implementation report saying: “The modalities are under consideration.”
Similar is the case with the Technology Development Fund that was meant to provide resources to public and private sector companies, including SMEs, as well as academic and scientific institutes to support R&D of defence systems that enhance the country’s cutting-edge technology.
“Consultations with stakeholders have been completed and draft cabinet note is being prepared,” the implementation note said.