FM emphasises on building ‘caring society’ in budget

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting the 2020-21 budget in the Lok Sabha on Saturday emphasised on building a caring society by including a slew of measures for social welfare, climate change and improvement of culture and tourism.

Putting forth her government’s stand against manual scavenging, the Minister announced “suitable technologies” for automatic cleaning of sewer systems and septic tanks had been identified by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

Manual scavenging refers to the practice of manual cleaning, disposing and handling human excreta.

“The Ministry is working with urban local bodies for adoption of these technologies. We will now take this to its logical conclusion through legislative and institutional changes. Financial support for wider acceptance of such technologies will be provided,” she said.

Sitharaman wove her presentation around three themes — aspirational India, economic development and caring society.

She allocated Rs 4,400 crore to encourage states to formulate and implement plans for cleaner air and said parameters for the incentive would soon be notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change.

She also proposed to shut thermal power plants that emitted high carbon di-oxide. “For such plants, we propose that utilities running them would be advised to shut them. The land so vacated can be put to alternative use.”

The Lower House reverberated with loud thumping of desk when Sitharaman said the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” scheme had shown impressive results. “The scheme has yielded tremendous results. Gross enrolment ratio of girls across all levels of education is now higher than boys,” she said.

The government has also allocated Rs 3,5600 crore for nutrition-related schemes and Rs 28,600 crore for programmes concerning women for 2020-21.

Stressing uplift of the backward classes, Sitharaman announced budget provision of Rs 85,000 crore for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Rs 53,700 crore for the Scheduled Tribes (ST). The Centre also enhanced allocation of Rs 9,500 crore for the senior citizens and physically challenged people (Divyang).

The Finance Minister said the government would soon set up an Indian Institute of Heritage and Conservation under the Ministry of Culture and be given deemed university status. It would be established on lines of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), she added.

As part of cultural push, the government announced the decision to promote five ASI protected sites in Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Hastinapur (UP), Sivasagar (Assam), Dholavira (Gujarat) and Adichanallur (Tamil Nadu).

Sitharama also said India had moved up from 65th place in 2014 to 34th in 2019 in the Travel and Tourism Competitive Index.