Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday specified that the proposed Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess will be used to improve mandi infrastructure in the country. Replying to a general debate on Budget 2021 in Lok Sabha, the finance minister clarified that the proposal to collect Rs 30,000 crore through the new agri cess will go to states to upgrade the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) infra.
Amid ongoing agitation by farmers demanding the repeal of three contentious farm laws, the finance minister informed that not a single APMC has been shut in any state. She added that the budget instead provides to strengthen such marketplaces for farmers.
It must be noted that in the Union Budget speech 2021, Sitharaman had announced the imposition of a new agri cess on various products, including petrol and diesel, to promote infrastructure in the agriculture sector.
The Finance Minister also spoke about the budget allocation for the MGNREGA scheme, which is a rural employment scheme. She said Rs 1.11 lakh crore has been the increased allocation for MGNREGA for the ongoing financial year, but until April it may be utilised only to the extent of Rs 90,000 crore.
Taking a dig at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Sitharaman added that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government can take credit for MGNREGA, but it should also own up to mismanagement in the employment scheme.
Further, in reply to Rahul Gandhi's allegations that the Modi government is promoting "crony capitalism," she said the government's cronies are the common people of the country and those for whom schemes were announced for making toilets, houses, among others.
FM Sitharaman spotlighted the Centre's efforts to protect small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. She claimed that the government suspended insolvency provisions so that small businesses were not declared insolvent and dragged to courts. The government also extended working capital to them without any security, which was later extended to anyone with a bank account, the finance minister added.
According to data shared by the government, both public and private banks have sanctioned loans worth Rs 2.39 lakh crore under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme as of January 25.
"The government considered all advice, but designed the measures that our own industries suggested," FM Sitharaman also stated.
The approach the government has taken may be completely different but has served India better than what was advised to copy different countries, the finance minister noted.