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One of the major reforms in this year's Union budget pertains to political funding. While Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's proposals could affect nearly 85% of Congress funding and 100% of the BJP's funding, these may close one loophole and open another. Read our analysis here.
The start-ups aren't happy with this year's budget. Last year, thanks to the Start-Up India initiative, the government gave them several sops, but the Union Budget 2017-18 promises them a tax break much too little, too late.
The most prominent benefit of the budget for people with income up to ₹5 lakh per annum is that the rate at which they pay tax will be halved to 5%. However, a surcharge of 10% will be imposed on people earning between ₹50 lakhs and ₹1 crores.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the budget as "futuristic", one that has something for everyone. "This is a budget for the future — for farmers, underprivileged, transparency, urban rejuvenation, rural development and enterprise," the PM said in a televised message about the budget proposals.
The Centre has decided to limit cash transactions to ₹3 lakh per person per day and impose a heavy penalty on the recipient for breaching that ceiling. The government believes such a move will curb the creation of black money and promote a less-cash economy.
The Congress criticised the Union budget for lacking a vision, especially since it doesn't announce a loan waiver for farmers. "We were expecting fireworks, instead it was a damp squib ... a sher-o-shayari budget," party vice-president Rahul Gandhi said. "The main issue facing India today is creation of jobs. How are you going to solve that problem? On that front, there was no vision, no idea."
Off The Front Page
While cigarettes and other tobacco products will cost more, according to the the Union budget, clean energy sources will become more affordable with the duty cut on solar tempered glass, fuel cell-based power generating systems and wind operated energy generator.
For the first time in the history of Indian polity, the railway budget was presented as part of the Union budget. While doing away with the 92-year-old colonial practice of presenting a separate budget for the railways, FM Jaitley announced a Railway Safety Fund of rupees one lakh crore over a period of five years.
The Union budget has proposed an agency which would conduct "all entrance examinations for higher education" but the Indian Institutes of Technology, which hold their own admission tests, hope that an exception would be made for them.
While acknowledging that the Union budget had many firsts to present this year, an editorial in Mint points out it had more hits than misses. Listing all the pros and cons in FM Jaitley's speech it concludes, "Overall, the budget has moved in the right direction and should help augment growth."
In The Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta calls the budget "a sober response to fear and uncertainty", one that has to be read in the specific context of the performance of the Indian economy. Although the Modi government's performance has been competent, growth has slowed down. There are also the challenges of dealing with the upheavals in global capitalism.
Ashok V Desai doesn't mince words about the budget in The Telegraph. "India has a government gone crazy; it needs a finance minister who would not find money for every government servant, but work out what needs to be done and who would do it most efficiently," he writes.
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