The Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Parliament at the start of this month has ticked all the right boxes. Although habitual critics of the Modi regime have sought to dismiss it as an “election” budget, there is no denying the fact that its tone and overall impact conform with the Prime Minister’s Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas mantra. It is progressive and inclusive at the same time.

The priorities of the government are clearly reflected in the Budget document, which addresses the concerns of every sector and group including corporates, senior citizens and women. All these have been incorporated into the vision for the upcoming year with an idea to improve not only the quality of the economy but also the quality of living.

What is significant is that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis have not been able to diminish India’s focus on domestic priorities, be it inclusive growth aimed at reaching the last mile or boosting of infrastructure and investment. The goal of achieving green growth and financial sector reforms has also not been lost sight of in the budget which has been justifiably hailed by experts as progressive and forward-looking.

The emphasis on strengthening infrastructure growth is unmistakable with the budget laying out a 33% increase in outlay for the infrastructure sector. This is over and above a 35% rise last year. The Modi government has been consistently underscoring the need for improved infrastructure with enhanced public works.

The growth of railways remains one of the focal points of the budget with an enhanced outlay which is around nine times the allocation made in 2013-14. The need for de-carbonization with the aim of complete electrification of tracks, greater freight movement and the new breed of passenger trains have been rightly highlighted.

The growth of urban infrastructure is the need of the hour and the budget emphasizes this with a proposal for Rs 10,000 crore per annum contribution to a newly set-up Urban Infra Development Fund to help the municipal authorities of Tier 2 and 3 cities shore up urban planning and governance.

Green energy has received due weightage in the Budget as well. While the National Green Hydrogen Mission gets an outlay of Rs 19,700 crore, the budget also sets aside Rs 35,000 crore as a “priority fund” for green-energy transition. A scheme has been proposed for encouraging fresh initiatives in battery storage systems and pump storage and a significant investment of Rs 20,700 crore has been targeted for the generation and evacuation of solar power from Ladakh.

Experts, who have hailed the budget as “progressive”, completely agree with the substantial 66% increase in allocation for the Awas Yojana to achieve the social objective of having a roof over every Indian’s head. Another important step towards infrastructure strengthening is expanding and improving the quality of air connectivity. Considering that air travel is no longer a luxury, rejuvenating 50 airports, heliports, water aerodromes, and advance landing grounds is a great idea. One must congratulate the Finance Minister for coming up with a budget that is progressive, inclusive and futuristic at the same time.

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