Arun Jaitley, India’s finance minister, center left, and other members of the finance ministry at the North Block leaving to table the budget in parliament in New Delhi. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Union Budget 2018: Opposition Leaders Call Budget’s Rural Push A ‘Lip Service’

Opposition leaders said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget announcements to increase the “ease of living” for rural Indians were nothing but “lip service”.

“It’s a classical case of too less and completely at the inappropriate time,” senior Congress leader Manish Tewari said, according to ANI. His party colleague Milind Deora tweeted, “there is no major relief for senior citizens who are forced to invest in overpriced public equities”.

The rural economy has been in a distress as the agriculture sector faced the brunt of a sharp fall in perishable prices in the aftermath of demonetisation. Uneven rainfall meant that both kharif and rabi output have been lower than expected. Advance estimates released by the Central Statistical Office peg agriculture growth at 2.1 percent in 2017-18.

The finance minister proposed to increase the minimum support price for the kharif crop to 1.5 times the cost of production and increased the farm credit target to Rs 11 lakh crore from last year’s Rs 10 lakh crore. He also promised to ease agricultural exports and strengthen e-national agricultural market network.

Swaraj Abhiyan founder Yogendra Yadav termed the measures for farmers as a “sleight of hand” by the finance minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meanwhile, hailed the budget saying it will add to the “ease of living” for farmers and common citizens