In keeping with the tradition of the interim budget, the government kept the tax rates untouched for now. However, Sitharaman expressed confidence that the Modi government will unveil a detailed roadmap for a “viksit bharat” during the full Budget which will be presented in July after the Lok Sabha polls.
Here are the 10 major takeaways of Interim Budget 2024:
No change in tax rates
In no notable announcement for the salaried class, finance minister Sitharaman on Thursday kept the tax slabs unchanged. This means that the current system of old and new regimes will continue for now.
“As for tax proposals, in keeping with the convention, I do not propose to make any changes relating to taxation and propose to retain the same tax rates for direct taxes and indirect taxes including import duties,” Sitharaman said.
However, the finance minister said that the government plans to address long-standing direct tax issues by withdrawing outstanding demands up to Rs 25,000 for years up to 2009-10 and Rs 10,000 for 2010-2015, benefiting as many as 1 crore taxpayers.
Vande Bharat-like bogies
Sitharaman said that as many as 40,000 normal railway bogies will be converted to Vande Bharat standard to enhance safety, convenience and comfort of passengers.
She also said that the Centre will implement three major economic railway corridor programmes: energy, mineral and cement corridors, port connectivity corridors, and high traffic density corridors.
“The resultant decongestion of the high-traffic corridors will also help in improving operations of passenger trains, resulting in safety and higher travel speed for passengers,” she said.
Focus on women
Sitharaman announced several measures focusing on women empowerment in her pre-election budget speech.
She spoke about the incredible success of Centre’s Lakhpati Didi scheme – which aims to train women in self-help groups (SHGs) so that they can earn a sustainable income of at least Rs 1 lakh per annum.
She said that buoyed by the success, it has been decided to enhance the beneficiary target for Lakhpati Didi from 2 crore to 3 crore.
Furthermore, she said that healthcare cover under Ayushman Bharat scheme will be extended to all ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers and helpers.
The finance minister said tha tthe government will also fast-track upgradation of anganwadi centres under “Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0” for improved nutrition delivery, early childhood care and development.
Sitharaman said that allocation for big infrastructure projects to be taken up in 2024-25 has been raised to Rs 11.1 lakh crore, which is an 11.1 per cent increase over the previous year. “This would be 3.4 per cent of the GDP,” she said.
She said that the “massive tripling” of the capital expenditure outlay in the past 4 years has resulted in a multiplier impact on economic growth and employment creation.
Wooing middle class
Wooing the middle class ahead of LS polls, Sitharaman announced a scheme to help those living in rented accommodations or slums to acquire a house.
“Our government will launch a scheme to help deserving sections of the middle class ‘living in rented houses, or slums, or chawls and unauthorized colonies’ to buy or build their own houses,” Sitharaman said.
Furthermore, she also announced building of 2 crore more houses for the rural poor in the next five years under the continuing PM Awas Yojana (Grameen).
The government has also increased the defence budget this year by Rs 6.2 lakh crore, which will constitute around 8% of the total expenditure.
Separately, Sitharaman said that a new scheme will be launched to strengthen deep tech for the defence sector.
FDI – First Develop India
In a bid to promote investments, Sitharaman said that the government is negotiating bilateral investment treaties with India’s foreign partners in the spirit of FDI, or “First Develop India”.
She also noted that the FDI inflow during 2014-23 was $596 billion, nearly twice the inflow compared to 2005-14.
Promoting research & innovation
A corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore will be established with 50-year interest free loans to encourage the private sector to scale up research and innovation in sunrise domains.
“This will encourage the private sector to scale up research and innovation significantly in sunrise domains. We need to have programmes that combine the powers of our youth and technology,” Sitharaman said.
Tax benefits for startups
The government also extended certain tax benefits for startups and investments made by sovereign wealth/pension funds as well as tax exemption on certain income of some IFSC units by another year.
Lakshadweep tourism push
In her Budget speech, the finance minister also spoke about the growing interest among travellers for domestic island destinations like Lakshadweep.
She said that to address the “emerging fervour for domestic tourism”, the Centre is planning to launch projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure and amenities in island groups, including Lakshadweep.