iMany critics say the direct tax tinkering has been done to reduce the impact of the reverses the BJP faced in recent polls. How would you react to those who say the Budget is Account for Vote and not Vote on Account?
Either are better than the money going into personal accounts. Budgets are a political reality in a parliamentary democracy. This is not a move which deviates from what the NDA government has been doing for the last five years.
How justified is the income support scheme along with continuation of subsidies?
Stopping the subsidy and handing over the cheque with sum-total of those benefits is a different scheme. It is an idea proposed by Arvind Subramanian in the 2015 Economic Survey where he said subsidies were not for the rich. In the subsequent year, he said give the beneficiary the cheque. But income support scheme can co-exist with subsides.
Will this quell rural stress?
On the one hand, we claim to be the fastest growing economy. The quality of life in urban India is improving, people are spending more, earning more. But on the other hand, rural India only got slogans in the past. In the last five years, we have seen huge transfer of resources to rural India. The MNREGA allocation has been doubled, more rural roads, houses, have been built. Most beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat are from rural India. There is better infrastructure, better access to credit, and the MSP is 50 per cent of the input cost. Except for the products procured, the farmer doesn't get the appropriate price. So, as a first step, we have decided to give him income support. This is one of the many instruments to help him. Let state governments run by the critics top it up.
The direct benefit scheme doesn't accommodate tenant farmers, the landless and tillers...
This is a concern. Unfortunately, the establishments have records of those who own the land, not those with whom they have done the contract with.
Budget numbers appear optimistic, even with the GST growth of 18 per cent.
When you switch over to a new taxation system, you are bound to face some implementation issues. In the initial year of GST, the average collection was Rs 89,000 crore and now we are crossing Rs 97,000 crore. In the second year, you are witnessing growth of 11-12 per cent; and in 3rd-4th year of GST you will have better compliance and obviously better collections.