Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that the Union Budget for FY 2021-22 intends to accelerate the pace for an 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat'. She also mentioned that the pandemic did not deter the Government for initiating reform measures for long term reforms. 

"I would like to highlight - stimulus plus reforms. The pandemic did not deter us from taking up reforms that would sustain long term growth,” she said in her reply on General Budget in the Lok Sabha.

The Rajya Sabha has already completed this process. This marks the completion of the first part of the budgetary exercise.

Now, the Standing Committees of different departments will present expenditure related proposals and the Finance Bill during the recess between February 16 and March 7. The Lok Sabha will take up these proposals and Finance Bill during second part of Budget Session scheduled to start from March 8. 

“We have taken not just one-off reforms, not just now and then, but reforms rivetted in a policy which will give a neat background, a layout spread before the Parliament for people to know that this is a reform that will lay a path for India to be one of the top economies of the world in the coming decade and further,” she said highlighting key themes of the budget. 

In response to criticism in less money for health, she highlighted that the Government has taken a holistic expenditure. “It is addressing preventive health, it is addressing curative health, it is also addressing well-being. Otherwise, you are not going to get holistic health-related governance,” she said.

“I will firmly establish that in spite of bringing water & sanitation, the allocation to the core health has not come down. On the contrary, it has gone up,” she clarified. 

She reiterated that the Government’s commitment towards respecting entrepreneurship. “Respecting Indian entrepreneurial skills, Indian managerial skills, Indian trade skills, Indian business skills, Indian youth, Jana Sangh onwards, BJP has consistently believed in India. We didn't borrow something from somewhere and gave a hybrid,” She said. 

She highlighted that the Budget has laid emphasis on increasing capital expenditure, raising allocation for healthcare capacity building and development of agriculture infrastructure, among others, which are expected to have a multiplier effect on the economy.

With regards to increasing allocation for rural job guarantee scheme, the Union Finance Minister said that the Government will allocate more funds for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) scheme for 2021-22, if needed, as against Budget estimate of Rs 73,000 crore. 

Some members questioned whether allocation for minority affairs, allocation for SC & ST has been reduced.

“No, they have not," the Minister denied while saying that total allocation for minority affairs is Rs 4,811 crore in 2021-22. This is an 8.6 per cent increase for the Ministry, higher than actual expenditure.

Overall allocation provided for welfare of SCs have shown an increase from Rs 83,257 crore in 2020-21, compared to Rs 1,26,259 crore in 2021-22. Overall allocation provided for welfare of STs have also shown an increase from Rs 53,653 crore from 2020-21 to Rs 79,942 crore in 2021-22.