Finally, govt acknowledges that Aadhar is important

PTI2_26_2016_000209B (File) Jaitley said Budget 2016 deals with the reality of India today

They may have wished it away, but eventually they not only accepted it but gave it its due credit, and more importantly pumped in funds. That is what the Narendra Modi government did with the Unique Identification Authority of India ( UIDAI) which issues citizens the Aadhar card. The card has all the information government wants about individuals, captured by the UIDAI.

In a few days, the government will introduce a bill that will give the Aadhar a statutory status. While the details of the bill are under wraps, it appears that the Aadhar card will be the legal framework on which all subsidies will be given.

“The principle purpose of the legislation will be that wherever money is spent by the government, the Aadhar is made the base to ensure that the right person gets the benefit, and that nobody gets the benefit multiple times,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley explained at a news conference after the Budget he presented gave a unique status to the identity card.

Economic Affairs secretary Shaktikanta Watal said this would be a game changer.

Jaitley said, “Budget 2016 deals with the reality of India today wherein there is serious agrarian crisis that has to be addressed. Priority has to be given to the agriculture and rural areas. Subsidies have to be given while ensuring that the benefits were transferred without leakage, the transport sector has to be improved...many cities don't have a worthwhile transport system.”

He said resolution of disputes, settling of disputes in infrastructure and simplification of laws had all been significant parts of the Budget, adding, “It addresses sectors that need to be addressed”.

Though the debate ahead of the Budget was over fiscal prudence and discipline versus public investment to fuel growth, there was a third view point as well, Jaitley stated, disclosing that a certain section wanted the government to consider a fiscal deficit range instead of a specific per centage of GDP. He said a committee would look into this, adding that the 3.5 per cent target was “eminently achievable.”

The minister said the Budget had brought about “the biggest simplification of tax laws”, and pointed to the presumptive tax, the exemptions given to the housing sector.

On the need to recapitalise the public sector banks, the finance minister said the announcement was “not the last word on it. Be sure, there will be more”.

When pointed out that it had become a “cess government”, Jaitley was of the view that once the GST rolls out, the cess imposed would automatically go away. “Governments survive on revenue..if anyone can teach me how to spend without collecting revenue, I will be happy to learn”, he said.

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