Prime Minister  Narendra Modi interacting with NCC Cadets, NSS Volunteers, Tableaux Artists and tribal guests, at Teen Murti Bhawan
Representational picture PIB

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hailed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for presenting an all-friendly Union Budget 2017-18 with the focus on agriculture, health and small businesses.

"This budget is farmer-friendly, common citizen-friendly, business environment-friendly and development-friendly," Modi said in his first reaction after Jaitley presented the Budget in the Lok Sabha here.

"Along with ease of doing business, there is also a focus on ease of living."

"This Budget has devoted attention to all sectors -- ranging from agriculture to infrastructure... this budget strengthens the hope and expectations of 125 crore people of India and will give a push to development," the Prime Minister said.

Modi spoke about a number of steps announced in the Budget, and said the benefits of these steps -- ranging from agriculture, health and education to a number of financial measures -- will reach the lowest strata of society.

"The benefit of these measures will reach the poor, exploited, and deprived people," he said.

"The farmers, Dalits, tribal communities will gain from this Budget. The Budget will bring new opportunities for rural India.".

Referring to Jaitley's announcement that the Minimum Support Price for notified kharif crops will be 1.5 times the input cost, the Prime Minister said: "I congratulate the Finance Minister for the decision regarding the MSP. I am sure it will help farmers tremendously."

Modi also lauded the announcement of a flagship National Health Protection Scheme under which Rs 5 lakh cover will be provided per year to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families in the country.

"This is the biggest government-sponsored health insurance scheme in the world," the Prime Minister said.

"One of the biggest concerns of a poor person is healthcare. The new programme announced in the Budget will be a relief for the poor," he said.

"Around 10 crore poor and lower middle class families will benefit. Around 45 to 50 crore people will come within its ambit," he said.

The Prime Minister also lauded the announcements to open 24 new medical colleges, concessions given to senior citizens in tax paid on interests, tax cut for the medium, small and micro enterprises, and relief given to the salaried class in the form of certain tax concessions.

Budget 2018-19:

In line with the BJP's poll promise before the 2014 general elections, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday announced that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for notified kharif crops would be 1.5 times the input cost along with formation of a concrete mechanism to ensure higher farm income.

While presenting the Union Budget for fiscal 2018-19, Jaitley said: "We have a promise made in our party's manifesto that farmers must get 1.5 times of the input cost. The government has been sensitive about it."

"For major of the notified rabi crops, MSP at 1.5 times over production cost has been decided. Now, I am feeling very happy the government has decided to announce to make the MSP for all notified crops in the upcoming kharif season at least 1.5 times of the input cost. It will help in doubling farmers' income."

In 2017, the MSP for paddy was pegged at Rs 1,550, for sorghum (jowar) at Rs 1,700, for red gram (tur/arhar) at Rs 5,450.

However, farmers were unhappy with the MSP rates as they were lower that the input cost, leading to losses.

The Finance Minister said higher income for farmers was not possible by just increasing the MSP so there was a need of a mechanism to ensure farmers get remunerative prices.

"What is more important is that farmers are benefitted from the notified MSP. If the market prices are lower than MSP, the government must procure at the MSP or devise a new mechanism to ensure farmers get the MSP. NITI Ayog is in discussion with the Centre and states to form a concrete system to ensure remunerative prices," he said.

"Our emphasis is on generating higher incomes for farmers. We consider agriculture as an enterprise and want farmers to produce more from the same land parcel at lesser cost and simultaneously realise higher prices for their produce," he said.

Jaitley also said the target of institutional credit for the agriculture sector was increased to Rs 11,000 lakh crore for 2018-19 from Rs 10,000 lakh crore in 2017-18.

Jaitley said 470 of 585 mandis (markets) in the country were connected to each other under electronic National Agriculture Market and the rest would be covered by March 2018.

He also said the government would upgrade and develop existing 22,000 rural haats into village agriculture markets as 86 per cent of the farmers in the country were small and marginal and not in a position to directly transact with the APMC markets and wholesale markets.

Allocation for the Food Processing Ministry has been doubled from Rs 715 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 1,400 crore in 2018-19.

The Minister also announced allocation of Rs 10,000 crore for Fishery and Aquaculture Development and Animal Husbandry Infrastructure.(IANS)