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Top technology focus areas in Arun Jaitley’s Budget 2016

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The General Budget 2016-17 has been dedicated to farmers and the rural sector with very limited focus on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet projects such as Digital India and Make in India. However, here are a few key announcements that we could dig-out which are related to e-governance and information communication technology (ICT) from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget 2016 speech

By Mohd Ujaley

By and large, the General Budget 2016-17 has been dedicated to farmer and rural sector with very limited focus on Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s pet projects such as Digital India and Make in India. In fact, some of the experts are terming it a “pro-rural and pro-poor” budget in an attempt to counter criticism of PM Modi’s “suit-boot ki sarkar” by opposition.

However, here are a few key announcements that we could dig-out, related to e-governance and information communication technology (ICT) from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget 2016 speech:

Technology for farmers

To ensure that the benefit of minimum support price (MSP) reaches farmers in all parts of the country, an online procurement system will be undertaken through the Food Corporation of India to usher in transparency and convenience to the farmers through prior registration and monitoring of actual procurement, said the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech.

He added that farmers take up allied activities to supplement their family income such as dairying. Therefore to make dairying more remunerative, an advanced breeding technology and creation of ‘E-Pashudhan Haat’, an e-market portal for connecting breeders and farmers will be established very soon.

Technology for procurement

Giving boost to already popular e-procurement projects, the Jaitley stated, to bring more transparency and efficiency in government procurement of goods and services, the Director General of Supplies and Disposal (DGS&D) will establish a technology driven platform to facilitate procurement of goods and services by various ministries and agencies of the government

Support for Information Technology Sector

On simplifying the procedures in customs and excise duty, the minister said that the government will make suitable changes in customs and excise duty rates and simplify procedures to reduce costs and improve competitiveness of domestic industry in sectors like Information technology hardware, capital goods, defense production, textiles, mineral fuels & mineral oils, chemicals & petrochemicals, paper, paperboard & newsprint, maintenance repair and overhauling of aircrafts and ship repair etc.

Technology for making taxation simple

Highlighting various technology initiative in tax department, he informed, capability of the tax department to detect tax evasion has improved because of enhanced access to information and availability of technology driven analytical tools to process tax information. “Government plans to use technology in taxation department in a big way to make life simpler for a law abiding citizen, and also for data mining to track tax evaders,” he stated.

He also informed that a pilot was run in 2015-16 for e-assessment to obviate the requirement for tax payers to visit the Income-tax offices. Government will expand the scope of e-assessments to all assesses in 7 mega cities in the coming years. The cases selected for scrutiny will be scrutinised in e-environment whereby unless assesses themselves want to be heard, or for special reasons to be recorded, the assessing officer wants to hear the party, there will be no face to face contact of IT Department with the assesse.

To reduce compliance cost, he said that the Income-tax Department (ITD) will fully expand the pilot initiative of ‘e-Sahyog’ with a view to reduce compliance cost, especially for small taxpayers. The objective of the ‘e-Sahyog’ pilot project is to provide an online mechanism to resolve mismatches in Income-tax returns without requiring taxpayers to attend the Income-tax office.

He also informed that the procedure now has been changed from physical control to record based control for customs bonded warehouses, supported by sophisticated IT systems.

Technology for Indian stock exchanges

To enhance global competitiveness of Indian stock exchanges and accelerate adoption of best-in-class technology and global market practices, the FM said, the investment limit for foreign entities in Indian stock exchanges will be enhanced from 5 to 15% on par with domestic institutions.

Technology to reap population dividend

To derive greater benefit from India’s young demography, the government aims to spread digital literacy in rural India. Currently, of the 16.8 crore rural households, as many as 12 crore households do not have computers and are unlikely to have digitally literate persons. In order to promote digital literacy, the Finance Minister stated that the government has approved two schemes: National Digital Literacy Mission; and Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (DISHA). And now it plans to launch a new Digital Literacy Mission Scheme for rural India to cover around 6 crore additional households within the next 3 years.

Technology for modernising of land records

Modernisation of land records is critical for dispute free titles. The National Land Record Modernisation Programme has been revamped under the Digital India Initiative and will be implemented as a central sector scheme with effect from 1st April, 2016. The minister said, the revamped programme will build an integrated land information management system. In this budget, Rs 150 crore has been provided for this purpose.

Statutory backing to the AADHAR platform

A critical component of minimum government and maximum governance is to ensure targeted disbursement of government subsidies and financial assistance to the actual beneficiaries. The Finance Minister said, govt will introduce a bill for Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services by using the Aadhar framework.

According to the FM, the bill will be introduced in the current Budget Session of the Parliament. “The Aadhar number or authentication shall not, however, confer any right of citizenship or domicile” he stated. A social security platform will be developed using Aadhar to accurately target beneficiaries. This will be a transformative piece of legislation which will benefit the poor and the vulnerable, he said. Additionally, government will undertake other reforms, such as the enactment of a law to ensure that all government benefits are conferred upon persons who deserve it, by giving a statutory backing to the AADHAR platform.

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