The 2017-18 budget laid emphasis on boosting rural infrastructure with more public spending in key areas like housing and electrification.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said these measures would enhance employment, a key concern of the government after demonetization slowed down the economy.
The rural housing scheme, a revamped version of the UPA’s Indira Awas Yojna, got more than Rs 9,000 crore than last year’s budget. The renewed emphasis comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his December 31 speech, increased the target of constructing rural houses by 33%.
“We propose to complete 1 crore houses by 2019 for the houseless and those living in kutcha houses. I have stepped up the allocation for Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin from Rs 15,000 crore to 23,000 crore,” Jaitley said.
Jaitley proposed increasing allocation to the rural electrification scheme, named after BJP ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay by Rs 4,814 crore. “We are well on our way to achieving 100% village electrification by May 1, 2018,” he said.
“I have also proposed to increase the allocations for Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana- National Rural Livelihood Mission for promotion of skill development and livelihood opportunities for people in rural areas to Rs 4,500 in 2017-18. The allocation for Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) and credit support schemes has been increased more than 3 times,” said Jaitley.
The PM’s rural road scheme under which 133 km roads were built daily in 2016-17, has been allocated Rs 19,000 crore. The government hopes that with the states’ contribution, a total fund of Rs 27,000 crore will be available for building roads to connect villages.
“We have also taken up the task of connecting habitations with more than 100 persons in left wing extremism affected Blocks. We have committed to complete the current target under PMGSY by 2019,” Jaitley said.
The government maintained that Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission has made “tremendous progress” with sanitation coverage in rural India going up from 42% in October 2014 to 60%.
“Open defecation-free villages are now being given priority for piped water supply. We propose to provide safe drinking water to over 28,000 arsenic and fluoride affected habitations in the next four years. This will be a submission of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP),” Jaitley added.