Union Budget 2018 Highlights: Healthcare Policy to Cover 10-Cr Households, MSP Hiked by 150% on Farm Produce, Income Tax Remains Untouched
All eyes are set on whether FM Jaitley presents a populist Budget for the year 2018-19 (Image: RSTV/YouTube grab)

The Union Budget 2018-19 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley focused evenly on all sectors of the economy, including the agriculture, infrastructure, MSMEs and the corporates. The marquee elements of the Budget could be stated as the hike of MSP for farm produce by a whopping 150 per cent -- which was the poll plank of the Narendra Modi-led BJP ahead of the 2014 elections. For Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, as he said in the Budget speech, the most remarkable step taken by the government this year is the roll-out of the National Healthcare Policy Policy, which would cover a record-breaking 10 crore households across the nation. Each household would be assisted with an amount of Rs 5 lakh per annum for medical treatments. Here are the highlights from his Budget speech in reverse chronological order:

Budget 2018 Live Update at 12:50 pm: FM Jaitley concludes his speech on Budget, tables the Finance Bill, 2018 before the Parliament.

Budget Live Update at 12:45 pm: Custom duty on mobile phones increased from 15 to 20 per cent, announces FM Jaitley.

Budget Live Update at 12:40 pm: Senior citizens can also claim 50,000 tax reduction against any health insurance, whereas, the very-senior citizens can claim reduction upto Rs 80,000. This would allow the entire strata of senior citizens to claim an additional tax reduction of Rs 4,000 crore.

No TDS will also be imposed on senior citizens for PF and Post Office Interest upto Rs 50,000.

Budget Live Update at 12:35 pm: For the salaried class, Jaitley said there will no alteration in the tax slabs.

However, the standard deduction from taxes has been increased to Rs 40,000 per annum, which "could be availed in hassle-free manner through medical and transport reimbursement," Jaitley added.

The facility, for the first time, would apply to senior citizens as well, the Finance Minister added. The total cost borne by the Centre will be Rs 8,000 crore, and the number of beneficiaries would total up to 2.5 crore.

Budget Live Update at 12:30 pm: The corporate tax rate has been reduced to 25 per cent for those companies who have filed tax returns to the tune of at least Rs 250 crores per annum for the year 2016-17, Jaitley said. "This will leave the companies with more non-taxable income, which would in turn create more jobs," the FM told the House.

Budget Live Update at 12:27 pm: In the aftermath of demonetisation, the total number of taxpayers has jumped from  6.47 crore in 2014-15 to 8.27 crore in 2016-17, Jaitley said, adding that his government is "committed to award the honest tax payers".

Budget Live Update at 12:24 pm: The target of fiscal deficit for the year 2018-19 has been fixed at 3.3 percent.  For the year 2017-18, the fiscal deficit was 3.5 percent of the GDP -- at Rs 5.95 lakh crore, the Finance Minister said.

Budget Live Update at 12:23 pm: Government has accepted the recommendation of fiscal management committee to reduce the share of government debt in the GDP to 40 per cent.

Budget Live Update at 12:22 pm: Emoluments of the President to be revised to Rs 5 lakh per month and emoluments of the Vice-president to be revised to Rs 4 lakh per month, Jaitley said.

Budget Live Update at 12:21 pm: The government has earmarked nearly Rs 18,000 crore to organise various events, seminars and functions to earmark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the FM told the House.

Budget Live Update at 12:20 pm: Jaitley also announced that government will ban the purchase of all forms of cryptocurrencies, and action will be taken against those firms offering virtual currencies for sale.

Budget Live Update at 12:18 pm: The disinvestment target for the year 2018-19 has been set by FM Jaitley as Rs 80,000 crore. This would primarily be met by disinvesting thes sole state carrier Air India, along with the state-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). A total of 24 public sector units will be disinvested.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 12: 15 pm: In a bid to boost digital connectivity in rural areas, Jaitley said a total of five lakh free wifi spots will be created in the rural areas.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 12:10 pm: Jaitley said the number of airports will be increased by nearly five times in the near future. At present, the Airport Authority of India has nearly 124 airports in the nation. "The air fares would also come down to the extent that those "wearing hawai chappal will also be able to take hawai route," Jaitley said.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 12:05 pm: For the Mumbai suburban railway network, a total of Rs 10,000 crore has been allocated for the 90-km additional double rail corridor. Rs 40,000 crore has also been allocated for the development of elevated suburban railway corridor.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 12:03 pm: A total of 12,000 wagons, 5160 coaches will be procured. All stations with over over 25,000 footfall per day would be provided with escalators. Special emphasis will be renovating 3,600-km of railway tracks which would prevent derailment incidents, Jaitley announced, further adding that a total of 600 Railway stations will be developed across the nation.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 12:00 pm: A total of 35,000 km of road network, connecting the remotest parts of the nation, will be developed using Rs 5.35 lakh crore allocated for the Bharat Mala project, the FM announced.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:57 am: The Smart City Mission will develop 99 cities at an outlay cost of Rs 2.04 lakh crore. Similarly, 10 iconic tourist destinations will also be developed through central funding.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:55 am: Infrastructure will remain the focus of Prime Minister Modi, FM Jaitley announced. Allocations have been made to develop the Rohtang Pass, which connects Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:50 am: Jaitley now begins speaking on the MSME sector. He listed the number of steps taken by his government to provide loans to the small and medium-scale businessmen. Measures will be further enacted, in the aftermath of GST roll-out, to boost the business operations of MSME, Jaitley said. "76% of Mudra loans will be given to MSMEs headed by women entrepreneurs," he added.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:43 am: Rs 600 crore has been announced for nutritional assistance to tuberculosis patients. Rs 1,200 crore has been allotted for the 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres which will be set up in all districts across the nation. 24 new government colleges have been announced which would offer free treatment to patients from the Schedule Tribes and Scheduled Tribes community, Jaitley announced.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:38 am: A flagship National Health Protection policy to cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable families has been announced by the FM. This will include nearly 50 crore beneficiaries. A total of Rs 5 lakh per annum has been announced for each family who would be included in the list of beneficiaries. "This is the world's largest such scheme, covering a record number of 50 crore people" Jaitley said. "This scheme will also create jobs, especially for women."

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:36 am: A total of two crore toilets will be constructed in the next two years under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan scheme. Eklavya Schools have also been announced for tribal children. Rs 13,000 crore has been allotted for digital training of teachers who would be deployed for imparting education in the Eklavya Schools.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:35 am: Allocation for national livelihood mission has been raised to Rs 5,750 crore. The government would built nearly 37 lakh homes in urban areas and 11 lakh homes in rural areas, the FM announced.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:30 am: A total of Rs 1,300 crore has been allotted for providing micro-irrigation facility to the most parched districts of India via the Pradhan mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:27 am: The government, through Ujjwala scheme, will provide free LPG connection to 8 crore households. The government will provide electricity to 4 crore households through the scheme. A total of Rs 10,000 crores has been allotted for the same, Jaitley announced.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:25 am: A special scheme will be announced for the governments of Delhi-NCT, Haryana, Punjab and UP to tackle the menace of stubble burning, which results in severe air pollution, the Finance Minister said.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:24 am: A Rs 10,000 crore corpus has been created for fishery development fund and animal husbandry fund. Meanwhile, Rs 1290 crore has been allotted for the Bamboo farming sector, Jaitley announced.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:23 am: The facility of Kisan Credit Card will be extended to those practicing fisheries as well, Jaitley announced.

For irrigation, NABARD will be releasing additional amount of funds for micro-irrigation projects.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:21 am: 'Operation Green' to be launched to ensure year-round production of onions and tomatoes -- products of mass consumption. Rs 500 crore will be allocated for the same, Jaitley said.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:20: Jaitley further added that his government would not restrict its responsibility by merely hiking the MSP. An overall mechanism would be created to uplift the rural economy. Apart from providing jobs through MNREGA, the FM added, horticulture and food processing will be promoted to create more job opportunities in the rural areas.

"Allocation in the food processing is being doubled to Rs 1,400 crore for FY-2018-19," Jaitley said.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:15 am: Jaitley said the government has decided to raise the minimum support prices (MSP) for Kharif produce by 150 per cent. "In case the farmers could not sell their produce at the fixed MSP, the government will compensate them by creating an institutional mechanism," the Finance Minister announced in the House, with much applause from the ruling benches.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:10 am: FM Jaitley said the government expects the economy to grow at 7.2 to 7.5 per cent per annum in the second half of 2018-19. "Our Budget for the coming year will remain committed towards all sectors of the economy, including agriculture, infrastructure and the common people," he added.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:05 am: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley begins his speech on the Union Budget 2018-19. Highlighting the success of the his earlier fiscal policies, Jaitley said when "we took over, India was categorised among the fragile five. Now it has become a bright spot in the global economy." The exports are expected to grow at 15 per cent in coming fiscal, Jaitley said, adding that the growth of economy at 6.3 per cent in the second quarter has signalled the turnaround caused caused by the tough measures of demonetisation and GST roll-out.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 11:00 am: FM Jaitley is set to begin his speech on the Union Budget 2018-19. Before his presentation of the fiscal policy, the House rose to mourn the shock demise of Palghar MP Chintaman Vanga, who passed away due to heart stroke on Monday.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 10:45 am: The Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has concluded. The Parliament session is set to begin at 11 am, with FM Jaitley reading his Budget speech in the Lower House. Post conclusion of his speech, the government would table the Finance Bill, 2018 to approve the Union Budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2018-19.

Shobana Kamineni, president of the Chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), says investment has to be the focus of Budget 2018 if the government intends to create multitude of jobs. "India needs to invest trillions of dollars for upgrading infrastructure, which would in turn create jobs. The industry also has to play a role in job creation," she said.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 10:30 am: The Cabinet meeting is currently underway, being chaired by PM Modi. The only prime agenda for the day is passage of the Finance Bill, 2018 through the Parliament.

Budget 2018 Live Update at 10:15 am: Finance Minister Jaitley reaches the Parliament. The sealed copy of Union Budget 2018-19 has also been dispatched to Lok Sabha. Live visuals emerging from outside the Parliament showed Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also arriving at the Parliament few minutes ago.

Ninad Karpe, the Chairman of CII, says the Budget is likely to focus upon infrastructure. "We are expecting positive announcements for agriculture as well. But infrastructure could not be ignored. It is the most crucial factor in allowing the economy to surge ahead," he was reported as saying by news channels.

New Delhi, Feb 1: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present the Union Budget for 2018-19 in the Parliament today. The Budget speech will begin at 11 am in the Lok Sabha. This year's fiscal policy is considered to be the most crucial as it is the last-full term Budget to be presented by the Narendra Modi-led government.

Speculations are rife whether the Finance Minister would lean towards populism -- considering the eight assembly elections to be held this year followed by the Lok Sabha polls in early 2014 -- or maintain the hardline target of narrowing the fiscal deficit, which was brought down to as low as low as 3.2 per cent in 2017.

A populist Budget -- which would feature roll-out of tax sops, farm subsidies, sector-wise incentives, reduction in income tax -- could allow the government to score electoral points in the crucial year marked by 8 legislative polls.

A reformist Budget, on the other hand, would allow government to stick to the policy of fiscal prudence, which has lately drew applause from global credit rating agencies.

"No Finance Minister can meet everyone's expectation. There is a need to stick to fiscal prudence as well. But this Budget, I believe, will succeed in striking a balance and fulfill the aspirations of the people," said BJP leader Lalitha Kumaramangalam while speaking to Rajya Sabha TV.

Giving insights into the Budget minutes before its release, MoS Finance Santosh Gangwar said the fiscal policy would remain committed to benefit the general populace. "Budget will be committed to the common man, as it has been since the past four years," he said.

Stay tuned above for the live updates.