Parliament passes Interim Budget 2019-20
Parliament Wednesday approved the Modi government's populist pre-election interim Budget that exempted people with an earning of up to Rs 5 lakh from payment of income tax, announced an annual cash dole of Rs 6,000 to small farmers and provided a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 to workers in the unorganised sector. While the Rajya Sabha passed without discussion The Appropriation Bills 2019 that gave the Centre authorisation to spend certain sums of money till the next government presents the full budget in July, as well as the Finance Bill, it did not take up the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the one on banning triple talaq, which may lapse on June 3 when the term of the present Lok Sabha ends.
Also passed without debate was The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that banned divorce on the ground of leprosy but the Consumer Protection Bill could not pass muster due to vociferous protests from Trinamool Congress and the Left parties. The Lok Sabha had previously approved all the five legislations that got Rajya Sabha nod Wednesday, the last day of the Budget session. The bills were passed without debate largely due to the paucity of time on the last day as the entire period since the session began on January 31 was washed out in Opposition protests over various issues, including the Rafale fighter jet deal and the Citizenship Bill that seeks to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from neighbouring countries.
While bills introduced in the Rajya Sabha but pending do not lapse with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, any bills passed by the lower house but pending in the Rajya Sabha lapse. Unless the government promulgates ordinances to make the provisions a law, the bills making the practice of Muslim men divorcing their wives simply by pronouncing talaq three times a criminal office, the Citizenship Bill and the Consumer Protection Bill will lapse with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
Besides passing the bills associated with the interim budget, the Rajya Sabha adopted without debate a resolution expressing gratitude to the President Ram Nath Kovind for his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget session. Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu referred to the consensus on the bills and the Motion of Thanks in the house after it met following a 40-minute adjournment in the morning caused by a ruckus created by Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress over different issues.
Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla moved the Appropriation Bills and the Finance Bill that was approved by voice vote. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel made an appeal for adopting the Motion of Thanks to the President's address without debate and the same was adopted by voice vote after several amendments moved by opposition leaders were withdrawn or not pressed. Converting what was supposed to be an interim budget or a vote on account into an almost full-fledged budget announcement in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal had on February 1 proposed an array of incentives for both the middle-class and farmers, whose disenchantment was said to have cost the BJP dearly in recent assembly elections.
Over 3 crore salaried people, pensioners, self-employed and small businesses with total income of up to Rs 5 lakh will have to pay nil tax now against their current liability of Rs 13,000 (including health and education cess) in view of the relief Goyal provided in form of a 'rebate'. Individuals with gross income up to Rs 6.5 lakh will not need to pay any tax now if they make tax-saving investments of Rs 1.5 lakh under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. In the Budget for 2019-20, he also raised standard deduction by Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 which will provide a benefit ranging from Rs 2,080 to Rs 3,588 depending on income levels.
As was widely anticipated, Goyal had also announced an income support scheme for 12 crore small and marginal farmers by providing Rs 6,000 in their bank accounts in three equal installments in a year, which will cost Rs 75,000 crore a year to the government. Also, a mega pension scheme was introduced to provide a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 after 60 years of age with a contribution of Rs 100 per month for workers in the unorganised sector.
In the reply to the Budget in Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal had hit out at the opposition for trying to "belittle" the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi which assures Rs 6,000 yearly assistance to small farmers, saying those who live in palaces will not understand the importance of Rs 2,000 every four months. The minister also rejected the opposition charge that he presented a full Budget, saying he has not proposed any new tax proposals, concessions or scheme in the Interim Budget.
In contrast, the Congress had in the 2014 Interim Budget reduced taxes on SUVs which are used by the rich people, he said. Referring to 'angel tax' on investments in start-ups, he said during the Congress regime, shell companies were being promoted and this government has stopped that system.
"I want to assure the entire country and this House that we will protect the honest and punish the dishonest," Goyal had said. The NDA government, he said, is committed to the welfare of farmers, poor and middle-class. The middle-class will not have to pay any tax on income up to Rs 9.5 lakh provided they invest in tax saving instruments and avail the benefit of increased tax rebate limit to Rs 5 lakh.
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