The Union Budget always comes with its set of political tug of war on several issues with Budget 2017 being no different. Several announcements were seen as a clear jibe at the Opposition. And in some, the Congress got a chance to remind the govt of the benefit of UPA’s flagship programmes for the poor.

With a clear reference to big loan defaulters running away scot-free, Vijay Mallya in particular, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that there will be new laws to take measures to confiscate property of those engaging in such actions. “Government is mulling the introduction of legal changes to confiscate assets of offenders, including economic offenders, who flee the country,” said Jaitley in his fourth budget.

Mallya is believed to have defaulted on loans from different banks to the tune of over Rs 9,000 crore. He had fled India in February 2016 and has been fighting his case from London. The Congress largely accuses the BJP-led NDA govt to have allowed Mallya to slip out of the country.

The Finance Minister also mentioned that the govt will introduce a draft bill which will aim to protect the poor from the chit fund schemes. This is seen as a direct fall out of the Shardha and Rose Valley chit fund scams. These companies are accused to have lured small savers from rural areas under the garb of chit subscriptions and cheated them on their deposits.

Several investors committed suicide after losing money. While Saradha took deposits from people to fund real estate schemes, Rose Valley peddled a holiday membership plan. Both scams broke out in West Bengal with several leaders of the Trinamool Congress having been arrested. The BJP has long accused TMC Chief and West Bengal CM, Mamata Banerjee to have shielded her party colleagues.

The MNREGA scheme is often hailed by the Congress party govt as the biggest contribution by any govt for the welfare of the poor. The BJP chose to call it a white elephant. The Finance Minister today announced the highest ever allocation for MNREGA at Rs 48,000 crore from Rs 38,500 crore last fiscal. The justification for this has been that demonetization had raised expectations of higher allocation to MGNREGA, with a large number of migrant workers having gone back home.

Political parties across the board have lauded the decision by the government to make funding in political parties as transparent. The cash donation limit for parties has been slashed to just Rs 2,000 from Rs 20,000. Political parties receiving donations above Rs 2,000 will now have to disclose the identity of the donor, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, announcing new rules for greater transparency in political funding in the country. Any amount in excess of Rs 2000 will have to be paid by cheque or other digital modes.

The govt will also introduce electoral bonds which will be redeemable only in the registered account of a political party recognised by the Election Commission. This, however, will entail an amendment to the RBI Act.

First Published | 1 February 2017 6:23 PM
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