Merger of Rail, General Budgets marks an Important Milestone in the Reforms: says Paswan

NEW DELHI: The merger of the 2017-18 Budget (presented by finance minister Arun Jaitley) with the rail budget is an important milestone of the reforms the prime minister has taken which also breaks the colonial tradition of separate budgets since 1924. This was stated by consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

He added that the presentation of the Budget (which reflected the government’s commitment to socio-economic and political reforms) on February 1, 2017 was another significant step in right direction of India’s reform strategy. Due to that, government departments would get a year to implement schemes and sufficient time before the onset of the monsoon.

Paswan lauded Jaitley for deliberating upon the initiatives taken by the government to tame price rise. As a result, the government has been able to control inflation, and the consumer price index (CPI) based inflation has reduced to 3.4 per cent in December 2016 from six per cent five months earlier.

The government has moved from a discretionary and favouritism-based system to a transparent system persistently for over two-and-a-half years, the results of which were showing.

Paswan elaborated on the public distribution system (PDS) reforms being undertaken across the country in the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

The minister was hopeful that by March-end this year, majority of the states will have cashless arrangements for distribution of foodgrains. By June-end, all the 5.27 lakh fair price shops (FPS) will be computerised, and the beneficiaries will be identified based on Aadhaar.

Most importantly, all these shops will have a cashless system in place. This will ensure direct and transparent benefit to 81 crore beneficiaries. The Central government is assisting the states in computerisation of FPS shops.

The allocation of margin money for FPS operators, which was Rs 2,500 crore in the present year, has been increased to Rs 4,500 crore in the financial year 2017-18.

Paswan hailed prime minister Narendra Modi for successfully reigning in the price of essential commodities. He lauded the initiative of creation of a buffer stock for pulses and increasing its size to 20 lakh metric tonnes (MT).

The budget estimate of Rs 900 crore has been revised to Rs 3,400 crore to achieve the same. This move has benefited lakhs of farmers across the country.

The total budgetary allocation for the consumer affairs department is Rs 3,727 crore, out of which the allocation for the price stabilisation fund (PSF) alone is Rs 3,500 crore.

NFSA has been implemented across the country in the current Financial Year. Accordingly, the allocation for food subsidy, which was Rs.1,30,334.61 crore in the financial year 2016-17, has been increased to Rs.1,45,138.60 crore for the financial year 2017-18.

The Centre has been persuading the states to adopt the decentralised procurement (DCP) scheme. So far, 17 states have adopted it. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has started online procurement, and many states have also implemented it.

This has created a positive impact on farmers who are now receiving payments directly in their accounts, transparently.

The budgetary provision for DCP states, which was Rs 30,672.96 crore in the present year, has been increased to Rs 38,000 crore in the financial year 2017-18.