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The Indian Budget 2021-22: Some Key Features

On February 1, 2021, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2021-22 in the Parliament. The first paperless budget of the country, it shoulders an additional significance as it includes measures to recover from the havoc wreaked by the pandemic.

Here are some key figures.

  • The government proposes to spend Rs 34,83,236 crores in 2021-22.
  • Estimated fiscal deficit of 6.8% of GDP compared to last year’s estimated deficit of 9.5%. The fiscal deficit is the difference between revenue receipts plus non-debt capital receipts and total expenditure. Essentially, it indicates how much a government needs to borrow (through the issue of securities and Treasury Bills) in order to fund public services and other benefits.
  • Capital expenditure targeted at Rs 5.54 lakh crore compared to 2020-21’s Rs 4.39 lakh crore. Capital Expenditure is the money spent on acquiring assets such as land, buildings, machinery and investment in shares.
  • Disinvestment target set at Rs 1.75 lakh crore. Disinvestment is the sale of government assets, usually public sector undertakings, allowing more private participation.
  • Rs 35,000 crores additionally allocated for COVID-19 vaccines.

The following flowchart is a visual representation of the different areas addressed in the Union Budget 2021-22.

We’ve covered some sections that impact us as global learners and job seekers.

  • Education and Skill Development
  • Research and Development
  • Capital and Infrastructure
  • Health
  • Some Tax Amendments
Education and Skill Development
  • Total expenditure allocated – Rs 93,224 crores.
  • This includes Rs 55,874 crores to the Department of School Education and Literacy, and Rs 38,350 crores to the Department of Higher Education.
  • This allocation is 6.13% lesser than the education budget of 2020-21. There is a difference of Rs 6,088 crores.
  • National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 will be implemented.
  • School Education:15,000 schools across the country will be developed as exemplar schools for their respective regions. They will pioneer the ideals of NEP 2020 and help other schools in implementing the same.
  • A standard for all school teachers will be developed, called the National Professional Standards for Teachers. This will affect approximately 92 lakh teachers, employed in both public and private schools.
  • National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers for Holistic Advancement (NISTHA) will train 56 lakh school teachers in 2021-22 digitally.
  • For students, this translates into a holistic report card that describes their strengths, areas of interest, needed areas of focus rather than a simplistic score sheet.
  • Effective from 2022-23, CBSE exams will move away from rote-learning and students shall be tested on their conceptual clarity, analytical skills and application of knowledge to real-life situations.
  • 750 Eklavya Model Residential Schools will be set up in areas where the tribal population is concentrated. Each school will be allocated Rs 38 crores with a provision for an additional sum of Rs 10 crores if situated in difficult-to-access locations.
  • Central Assistance for Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for students from Scheduled Castes will be Rs 35,219 crores for six years (till 2025-26).
  • Indian sign language will be standardised and a systematised curriculum will be developed for learners with hearing and speaking impairments.
  • Higher Education: Legislation to set up the Higher Education Commission of India will be introduced. This commission will be an umbrella body having four separate agencies for standard-setting, accreditation, regulations, and funding.
  • In nine cities, research institutions, universities, and colleges will be tied together under a formal structure. The aim is to promote more cohesive research and help retain their internal autonomy.
  • Proposed central university in Leh, Ladakh.
  • Suggested regulatory body to permit dual degrees, joint degrees, twinning arrangements, etc., with foreign higher educational institutions.
  • A National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) will be set up to increase access to resources, support teaching, and learning activities, and navigate digitally, the administrative side of the education department.
  • Skill Development: Over Rs, 3,000 crores will be provided to realign the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme to provide post-education apprenticeship and training to graduates and diploma holders in Engineering.
Research and Development
  • The National Research Foundation has been allocated Rs 50,000 crores for a period of five years. This foundation will spearhead the development of a research ethos in the country and thrust forward disciplines of national priority.
  • The budget also emphasizes a translation mission that will allow governance and policy related material on the internet to be available in all major Indian languages.
  • The budget provides for the New Space India Limited (NSIL), a PSU under the Department of Space that will execute the PSLV-CS51 launch, carrying the Amazonia Satellite from Brazil, along with a few smaller Indian satellites.

More than Rs 4,000 crores, spread over a span of five years, is allotted for the Deep Ocean Mission. The premise of this project is to study and survey the depths of the ocean, aiming at the conservation of marine biodiversity.

Capital and Infrastructure

This section of the article does not explore the specifics of various allocations done across industries for, it would go beyond the scope of this article. Rather, it summarises future trajectories that will impact the prospective jobseeker.

The budget adheres to what it calls a ‘Strategic Disinvestment Policy’ that minimises the role of the central government in public sector enterprises including financial institutions in order to create more investment opportunities for the private sector. Strategic disinvestment of BPCL, Air India, Shipping Corporation of India, Container Corporation of India, IDBI Bank, BEML, Pawan Hans, Neelachal Ispat Nigam limited among others would be completed in 2021-22. Other than IDBI Bank, two public sector banks and LIC will also be partially privatised in the year 2022.

The private capital that comes in, along with competitive technology and management practices, will increase employment opportunities and eventually, contribute to economic growth. Essentially, the private sector is taking the lion’s share of the nation’s economy. It comes with its advantages and disadvantages. As the market opens up for more private investors, it increases the number of players in any given industry which means more jobs will be created.. On the other hand, competition increases and profit becomes the key determinant of survival

Health
  • Rs 64,180 crores over 6 years for the PM AtmaNirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana that will develop primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems across the country.
  • Rs 2,217 crores for 42 urban centres to curb air pollution.
  • Voluntary vehicle scrapping policy introduced. Vehicles will undergo fitness tests (after 20 years for personal vehicles, after 15 years for commercial ones). It is to phase out older models and allow newer, more fuel-efficient, and environmentally friendly models to take its place.
  • Rs 35,000 crores allotted for Covid vaccines.
  • The total budgeted amount for health and wellbeing is Rs 2,23,846 crores compared to last year’s Rs 94,452 crores.
Some Tax Amendments
  • Senior citizens of 75 years and above are exempted from filing tax returns if pension and interest are their only sources of income.
  • Assessment proceedings of Income Tax will be reopened only up to three years, as opposed to the earlier time limit of six years.
  • Tax holiday for startups has been extended up to 31 March 2022.
  • A faceless Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has been proposed to resolve IT assessment discrepancies online.
Date added
05.02.2021

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