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Business

Markets turn highly volatile amid Budget presentation

Stock markets turned highly volatile amid the Union Budget presentation on Tuesday.

The 30-share BSE Sensex jumped as soon as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman began presenting the Budget for 2024-25. But, within minutes it slipped in the red and later traded flat, down 38.17 points at 80,457.02 at 11:41 hrs. The NSE Nifty also ticked higher as the finance minister began the presentation of her 7th Union Budget in the Lok Sabha. However, volatile trends soon came in and the benchmark traded 18.25 points lower at 24,491.

The BSE benchmark had climbed 264.33 points to 80,766.41 in early trade. The Nifty went up 73.3 points to 24,582.55.

This is the first Budget during Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government's third term in office.

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Markets climb in early deals ahead of Budget presentation; Sensex climbs 264 points

Stock markets climbed in early trade today with the Sensex climbing over 264 points, ahead of the Union Budget presentation later in the day as investors' sentiment turned buoyant amid foreign fund inflows and a rally in the US peers.

The 30-share BSE Sensex climbed 264.33 points to 80,766.41 in early trade. The NSE Nifty went up 73.3 points to 24,582.55.

Among the Sensex pack, UltraTech Cement, Mahindra & Mahindra, ITC, Larsen & Toubro and NTPC were the biggest gainers. HCL Tech, Power Grid, JSW Steel and Tata Steel were among the laggards. However, later, both the benchmark indices faced heavy volatile trends and were trading flat.

"The market participants will be closely watching for any tweaks in LTCGs tax. If there are no changes in LTCGs tax that will be a big relief for the market and the market is likely to react positively to that. Stock-specific reactions will depend on the Budget proposals for specific sectors," said V K Vijayakumar, Chief Investment Strategist, Geojit Financial Services. Falling for the second day in a row, the BSE benchmark fell 102.57 points or 0.13% to settle at 80,502.08 on Monday.

The NSE Nifty dipped 21.65 points or 0.09% to 24,509.25.

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City

Schools in Haridwar to remain closed due to rush of Kanwariyas

Schools in Haridwar will remain closed from July 27 to August 2 given the rush of Shiv devotees during the ongoing Kanwar Yatra.

It was decided to close the schools as the rush is going to increase over the next few days, District Magistrate Dhiraj Singh Garbiyal said.

Government, non-government schools and Anganwadi centres from class 1 to 12 in the district will remain closed from July 27 to August 2, he said.

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Diplomacy

As democracies, we support regional, global peace: PM Modi after phone call with Luxembourg leader

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday spoke to his Luxembourg counterpart Luc Frieden and asserted that the two countries support regional and global peace and stability.

An official statement said Modi received a congratulatory call from Frieden following his re-election, and they exchanged views on regional and global issues, including the conflict in Ukraine.

"PM Frieden appreciated the role being played by India in supporting the end of the conflict and early restoration of peace and stability," it said. Modi said on X that he had a good conversation with Frieden and reiterated the commitment to deepening and strengthening India-Luxembourg ties, including in the areas of trade, investment, financial services and industrial manufacturing.

He said, "As democracies, we support regional and global peace and stability."

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Environment

India among top 3 countries in forest area gains: FAO report

India gained 2,66,000 hectares of forest area annually from 2010 to 2020, securing the third spot among the top 10 countries with the most significant forest area gains during this period, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The report, released on Monday, said China led the world with the maximum forest area gain of 1,937,000 hectares, followed by Australia with 4,46,000 hectares, and India. Other countries in the top 10 include Chile, Vietnam, Turkey, the United States, France, Italy and Romania. The UN agency praised India for its efforts in restoring degraded lands and expanding agroforestry through innovative approaches. This includes the development of a new national policy aimed at better-supporting agroforestry in the country.

The report highlighted a significant reduction in deforestation in some countries. For example, Indonesia saw an 8.4% decline in deforestation from 2021 to 2022, while Brazil's Amazon experienced a 50% reduction in deforestation in 2023. The FAO report also said the rate of gross global mangrove loss decreased by 23% during the periods — 2000 to 2010 and 2010 to 2020.

However, the FAO stressed that climate change is increasing the vulnerability of forests to various stressors, including wildfires and pests.

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International

Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle resigns

The director of the Secret Service is stepping down from her job, according to an email she sent to staff, ‘CNN’ reported. 

This comes after scrutiny of security lapses related to the recent assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump.

The failed assassination bid on Trump is the “most serious” security lapse since the then President Ronald Regan was shot in 1981, the head of the US Secret Service had conceded to lawmakers.

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Kamala Harris wins enough support to clinch Democratic nomination on first full day of her campaign

Kamala Harris has attracted the support of enough delegates to become the Democratic Party's nominee for president, US media outlets reported on Tuesday, as the vice president received a wave of endorsements from potential rivals, lawmakers, governors and influential advocacy groups.

Harris, who is of Indian and African heritage, has received the backing from more than the 1,976 pledged delegates needed to win the Democratic Party's nomination on the first ballot, CNN reported on the first full day of her campaign. "I look forward to formally accepting the nomination soon," Harris, 59, said in a statement late Monday, a day after President Joe Biden announced his withdrawal from the race for the White House on November 5 and endorsed Harris.

As party officials were preparing to finalise the process for formally nominating a candidate ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago from August 19-22, it was already clear that the biggest remaining question about the 2024 Democratic ticket is who Harris will choose as her running mate, media reports said. Harris, who will hold a campaign event in Milwaukee on Tuesday, staked her claim to the party’s standard-bearer role with an electric speech Monday evening, as she visited the campaign’s headquarters in Delaware.

"We have 106 days until Election Day and in that time, we have some hard work to do," she told them and assured them that those who had been working for the Biden-led campaign would remain on board. The vice president also laid out her case against her 78-year-old Republican rival Donald Trump, invoking a host of the former president’s scandals and legal woes.

She pointed to her time as a district attorney and California attorney general, saying that she “took on perpetrators of all kinds.”

“Predators who abused women, fraudsters who ripped off consumers, cheaters who broke the rules for their own game,” Harris said. “So hear me when I say, I know Donald Trump’s type.”

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Most serious security lapse since Reagan was shot in 1981, concedes Secret Service Director

The failed assassination bid on former US President Donald Trump is the “most serious” security lapse since the then President Ronald Regan was shot in 1981, the head of the US Secret Service conceded to lawmakers on Monday.

US Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle conceded this during her testimony before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of Trump, wherein she was grilled by lawmakers, including two Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Ro Khanna. Khanna asked Cheatle to resign as the Director of the US Secret Service. “If you have an assassination attempt on a president, a former president or a candidate, you need to resign,” Khanna said, noting that Stewart Knight, the then Secret Service head in 1981 had resigned.

"You cannot go leading a Secret Service agency when there is an assassination attempt on a presidential candidate. I would say that about anyone who is running,” he said.

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France to give 24-hour protection to Israeli Olympics team

Athletes from Israel will receive 24-hour protection during the Paris Olympics, France's interior minister said, after a far-left lawmaker said Israel's delegation was not welcome and called for protests against their participation in view of the war in Gaza. 

The Games are due to begin on Friday amid heightened security concerns and geopolitical tensions over the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. 

Israel's devastating war in Gaza has become a lightning rod among France's far left, with some critics accusing pro-Palestinian members of antisemitism.

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China to increase retirement age amid ageing population

China will gradually increase its statutory retirement age over the next five years to address its ageing population and strained pension system. Life expectancy in China has now reached 78 years, surpassing that of the United States and significantly improving from just 36 years in 1949, the year of the Communist revolution.

Despite this progress, China's retirement age is among the lowest globally: 60 for men, 55 for women in white-collar jobs, and 50 for working-class women. The move to raise retirement ages was part of several resolutions adopted at the recent Third Plenary Session of the Communist Party, held every five years.

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Harris secures enough delegates to become presumptive Democratic nominee: AP survey

US Vice President Kamala Harris has secured the support of enough Democratic delegates to become her party’s nominee in the upcoming Presidential election according to an Associated Press survey.

Following President Joe Biden’s endorsement, top Democrats rallied to support her to be the Democratic candidate to face Republican nominee Donald Trump.  Prominent Democratic elected officials, party leaders and political organisations quickly lined up behind Harris in the day after Biden’s exit from the race and her campaign set a new 24-hour record for presidential donations on Monday, notes AP. 

By Monday night, Harris had the support of well more than the 1,976 delegates she’ll need to win on a first ballot, according to the AP tally. No other candidate was named by a delegate contacted by the AP.

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US: Pelosi endorses Kamala Harris as presidential candidate of Democratic party

Top Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the party’s presidential nominee after President Joe Biden stepped aside amid concerns from within their party that he would be unable to defeat Republican Donald Trump.

Harris, 59, is mostly likely to be the presidential nominee of the Democratic party now that she has been endorsed by President Joe Biden, who announced on Sunday that he will not seek re-election, as well as other top party leaders including former president Bill Clinton. “Today, it is with immense pride and limitless optimism for our country’s future that I endorse Vice President Kamala Harris for President of the United States,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The endorsement from Pelosi, 84, is significant given that she is a towering personality within the Democratic Party.

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Maldives seeks China’s fiscal support to carry out economic reforms to address debt distress

Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer on Monday met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and sought Beijing’s support to carry out fiscal and economic reforms to develop its debt-ridden economy.

During his meeting, Zameer highlighted the importance of diligently carrying out fiscal reforms announced by Maldivian President Muhammad Muizzu and requested China's support in fostering consumer and investor confidence in the Maldivian economy. The two countries held extensive bilateral discussions, with Wang reaffirming Beijing's commitment to strengthen historic and friendly relations, the press release said.

Zameer thanked China for its substantial support through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has played a pivotal role in the Maldives' socio-economic development, it said.

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Markets

Sensex, Nifty settle marginally down in volatile trade on eventful Budget day

Benchmark Sensex and Nifty settled marginally lower in volatile trade on Tuesday as the government proposed to hike securities transaction tax on futures & options in the budget for 2024-25.

Recovering most of its intra-day losses of over 1,200 points, the 30-share BSE Sensex settled lower by 73.04 points or 0.09% 80,429.04.

The index gyrated between highs and lows during the day as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced budget proposals for 2024-25. The barometer tanked 1,277.76 points or 1.58% to hit a low of 79,224.32 as the minister announced a hike in STT on F&O trade and an increase in long-term capital gains tax on equities. 

However, tax exemptions and customs duty cuts helped boost consumer durables and FMCG shares, aiding stocks to recover from the day’s lows.

The NSE Nifty dipped 30.20 points or 0.12% to 24,479.05. Intra-day, it dropped 435.05 points or 1.77% to 24,074.20. Among the Sensex pack, Titan jumped over 6%, followed by ITC which surged more than 5%.

Adani Ports, NTPC, Infosys, Hindustan Unilever, HCL Technologies and Sun Pharma were among the other big gainers.

However, Larsen & Toubro, Bajaj Finance, State Bank of India, Axis Bank and HDFC Bank were among the major laggards.

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Sensex, Nifty tumble after Finance Minister Sitharaman hikes STT on F&O

Stock market benchmarks Sensex and Nifty tanked after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a hike in STT (Securities Transaction Tax) on F&O (Futures and Options) securities.

The 30-share BSE Sensex jumped as soon as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman began presenting the Budget for 2024-25. But, within minutes it slipped in the red and later plummeted 1,266.17 points to 79,235.91 during the afternoon trade. The NSE Nifty also ticked higher as the finance minister began the presentation of her seventh Union Budget in the Lok Sabha. However, volatile trends soon came in and the benchmark later tanked 435.05 points to 24,074.20.

The BSE benchmark had climbed 264.33 points to 80,766.41 in early trade. The Nifty went up 73.3 points to 24,582.55. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the government plans to raise the capital gains exemption limit on certain financial assets to Rs 1.25 lakh per year for the middle and upper middle class.

Presenting the Budget for 2024-25, she announced a hike in STT (Securities Transaction Tax) on F&O (futures and options) securities by 0.02% and 0.1%. Among the Sensex pack, Larsen & Toubro, Bajaj Finance, Power Grid, Reliance Industries, State Bank of India and Bajaj Finserv were the major laggards.

Titan, ITC, Hindustan Unilever and Adani Ports were among the biggest gainers.

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National

Drone-based seed dispersal launched to enhance green cover of Vaishno Devi hills

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) has launched a drone-based initiative to enhance the green cover of the Trikuta hills in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district.

This pioneering effort leverages cutting-edge technology for environmental conservation and sustainable development, preserving the natural grandeur of the revered shrine.

Anshul Garg, chief executive officer of the shrine board, inaugurated the initiative at the Natali village on Tuesday, a spokesman of the board said.

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Karnataka Cabinet gives nod for resolutions against NEET, delimitation

The Karnataka Cabinet under the leadership of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has given its approval for adopting three resolutions, including one against the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), official sources said.

The other two resolutions are said to be against 'One Nation, One Election' and delimitation of constituencies for the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies. The resolutions are likely to be tabled during the ongoing legislature session, probably on Tuesday itself, the sources said.

The Cabinet is also said to have cleared the ‘Greater Bengaluru Governance Bill 2024’.

A four-member committee led by former chief secretary B S Patil, formed to restructure the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, submitted its report to the government earlier this month.

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Modi 3.0’s first Budget provides tax relief for middle class

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced income tax relief for the middle class as she unveiled the Modi 3.0 government's first budget after the general elections.

With rural distress and unemployment being blamed for BJP losing its majority, Sitharaman in her seventh straight budget provided Rs 2.66 lakh crore for rural development and maintained spending on long-term infrastructure projects at Rs 11.11 lakh crore to boost economic growth. She abolished ‘angel tax’ for all classes of investors in startups, cut customs duty on mobile phones and gold and simplified capital gains tax.

She, however, raised the securities transaction tax (STT) on futures and options of securities, which led to tanking of stock markets.

“India's economic growth continues to be the shining exception (in a world that is gripped by policy uncertainties) and will remain so in the years ahead,” she said. “In this budget, we particularly focus on employment, skilling, MSMEs, and the middle class.” Besides Rs 2 lakh crore provided over a five year period for schemes and initiatives to facilitate employment, skilling and other opportunities for 4.1 crore youth, "I have made a provision of Rs 1.48 lakh crore for education, employment and skilling," she said.

For Bihar, where Assembly elections are due next year, the finance minister announced spending of Rs 60,000 crore on infrastructure projects like expressways, power plant, heritage corridors and new airports.

The support to Bihar, whose ruling party and BJP's partner JD(U) has been demanding an economic package and special category status for the state, is in the form of capital projects but not subsidy or cash dole. Similarly, for Andhra Pradesh, whose ruling TDP recently joined BJP-led NDA, she allocated Rs 15,000 crore in financial aid through multilateral agencies. A similar request for support to Bihar will be expedited, she said.

For the middle class, she raised standard deduction - a flat deduction from the total salary earned by an employee in a year before calculating the applicable income tax rate - by 50% to Rs 75,000 and tweaked tax slabs for taxpayers opting for the new income tax regime. This will lead to taxpayers under the new tax regime - which offers lower rates of taxes but permits limited deductions and exemptions - saving up to Rs 17,500 in tax annually, she said.

India’s official unemployment rate in urban areas is pegged at 6.7% but private agencies put it at much higher levels.

Buoyed by robust tax collections and a higher-than-expected dividend receipt from the Reserve Bank, Sitharaman said the government's fiscal deficit - the difference between the total revenue earned and total expenditure - will be trimmed to 4.9% of the GDP in 2024-25, below the 5.1% figure estimated in the interim budget she presented in February.

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FM Sitharaman proposes several changes in TDS structure

The government on Tuesday proposed several changes in the tax deducted at source structure, including reducing the rate for e-commerce operators to 0.1% from existing 1%.

“A beginning is being made in the Finance Bill by simplifying the tax regime for charities, TDS rate structure, provisions for reassessment and search provisions and capital gains taxation,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her Budget Speech in the Lok Sabha. In the first Budget of Modi 3.0, Sitharaman proposed that the 5% TDS rate on many payments is being merged into the 2% TDS rate and the 20% TDS rate on repurchase of units by mutual funds or UTI is being withdrawn.

TDS rate on e-commerce operators is proposed to be reduced from 1% to 0.1%.

Also, credit of TCS is proposed to be given in the TDS to be deducted on salary. “Further, I propose to decriminalise delay for payment of TDS up to the due date of filing statement for the same. I also plan to provide a standard operating procedure for TDS defaults and simplify and rationalise the compounding guidelines for such defaults,” the minister said.

Deloitte India Partner Saraswathi Kasturirangan said, “Remittance of funds towards employee stock purchase plans are subject to TCS at 20% if the remittance amount exceeds Rs 7 lakhs.

“The amount of TCS was to be claimed by the employee in the tax return since there was no specific provision to consider the same by the employer while deducting tax at source on salaries. This has now been enabled, mitigating cash flow challenges for employees.” Sitharaman said all the major tax-payer services under GST and most services under customs and income tax have been digitalised.

All remaining services of customs and income tax, including rectification and order giving effect to appellate orders will be digitalised and made paper-less over the next two years.

Sitharaman said while the government's concerted efforts to reduce pendency of appeals at various appellate fora are beginning to show good results, it will continue to engage our highest attention.

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FM Sitharaman announces cut in corporate tax on foreign companies

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced a reduction in the corporate tax rate on foreign companies to 35% to attract foreign capital flow.

Budget 2024-25 has proposed a reduction in the rate of income-tax chargeable on income of foreign companies (other than that chargeable at special rates) from 40% to 35%.

The pre-budget Economic Survey on Monday made a strong case for seeking foreign direct investments (FDI) from Beijing to boost local manufacturing and tap the export market despite strained relations with China As the US and Europe are shifting their immediate sourcing away from China, it is more effective to have Chinese companies invest in India and then export the products to these markets rather than importing from the neighbouring country, the Survey had said.

Cut in the tax rate for foreign companies from 40% to 35% and the abolition of the 2% equalisation levy was a surprise, Deloitte India Partner Rohinton Sidhwa said. These would be replaced with alternative levies in the run-up to implementing Pillar 1 and 2 obligations, he added.

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Govt lowers fiscal deficit target to 4.9% of GDP

Buoyed by improvement in revenue collection, the government has lowered fiscal deficit target to 4.9% for the current financial year as against 5.1% estimated in February's interim Budget.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, retained the fiscal deficit estimate at 4.5% for 2025-26 as announced in February. "For the year 2024-25, the total receipts other than borrowings and the total expenditure are estimated at Rs 32.07 lakh crore and Rs 48.21 lakh crore, respectively. The net tax receipts are estimated at Rs 25.83 lakh crore. The fiscal deficit is estimated at 4.9% of GDP," she said, while presenting the Budget in Lok Sabha. In absolute terms, the fiscal deficit has accordingly came down to Rs 16.14 lakh crore against Rs 16.85 lakh crore estimated earlier for the current financial year.

"The fiscal consolidation path announced by me in 2021 has served our economy very well, and we aim to reach a deficit below 4.5% next year. The government is committed to staying the course.

"From 2026-27 onwards, our endeavour will be to keep the fiscal deficit each year such that the central government debt will be on a declining path as a percentage of GDP," she said. The government has also cut down its gross market borrowing target by about Rs 12,000 crore to meet the fiscal deficit, the gap between revenue receipt and expenditure.

The gross market borrowings has now revised downward to Rs 14.01 lakh crore from Rs 14.13 lakh crore estimated in February. "The gross and net market borrowings through dated securities during 2024-25 are estimated at Rs 14.01 lakh crore and Rs 11.63 lakh crore, respectively. Both will be less than that in 2023-24," she said.

Gross borrowing was Rs 15.43 lakh crore, the highest ever, in 2023-24.

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FM Sithraman proposes hike in securities transaction tax on securities transaction tax

Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman on Tuesday proposed to increase the rate of securities transaction tax (STT) on futures and options (F&O) trade to discourage retail investors' participation in the risky instrument.

“It is proposed to increase the rates of STT on the sale of an option in securities from 0.0625% to 0.1% of the option premium, and on sale of a futures in securities from 0.0125% to 0.02% of the price at which such futures are traded,” she said in the Union Budget speech. This came after the Economic Survey flagged concerns over rising retail investors’ interest in derivative trading. The survey stated that speculative trade has no place in a developing country.

It also pointed out that the sharp increase in retail investor participation in F&O trading is likely driven by humans' gambling instincts.

“Derivatives trading holds the potential for outsized gains. Thus, it caters to humans' gambling instincts and can augment income if profitable. These considerations are likely driving active retail participation in derivatives trading,” according to the Economic Survey 2023-24.

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Relief for salaried class under new tax regime; 50% hike in standard deduction to Rs 75,000

In sops for the middle class, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday hiked standard deduction by 50% to Rs 75,000 and tweaked tax slabs under the new income tax regime to provide more money in the hands of salaried class with a view to boost consumption.

She said salaried employees in the new tax regime could save up to Rs 17,500 in income tax annually following the changes announced in the Budget. The standard deduction for salaried employees is proposed to be increased from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 annually. Similarly, deduction on family pension for pensioners is proposed to be enhanced from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000.

"This will provide relief to about four crore salaried individuals and pensioners," Sitharaman said in her Budget speech.

In the last fiscal, more than two-thirds individual taxpayers have availed the new personal income tax regime. Over 8.61 crore I-T returns were filed in 2023-24 fiscal. The new tax slabs under the new income tax regime will be effective from April 1, 2024. (Assessment Year 2025-26).

Sitharaman said income of up to Rs 3 lakh will continue to be exempted from income tax under the new regime.

As per the proposal, a 5% tax will be levied on income between Rs 3-7 lakh, 10% between Rs 7-10 lakh, 15% for Rs 10-12 lakh. However, 20% tax will continue to be levied on income between Rs 12-15 lakh and 30% for income above Rs 15 lakh.

Under the existing new I-T regime, a 5% tax is levied on income between Rs 3-6 lakh, 10% for income between Rs 6-9 lakh.

Income between Rs 9-12 lakh and Rs 12-15 lakh is subject to 15% and 20% tax, respectively. A 30% I-T would be applicable on income above Rs 15 lakh.

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Central assistance of Rs 2.2 lakh cr in next 5 yrs to provide homes for 1cr urban poor, middle-class

The government on Tuesday announced central assistance of Rs 2.2 lakh crore over the next five years to meet housing requirement of 1 crore urban poor and middle class families under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban and proposed interest subsidy to provide loans at affordable rates.

In her Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, "Under the PM Awas Yojana Urban 2.0, housing needs of 1 crore urban poor and middle-class families will be addressed with an investment of Rs 10 lakh crore." "This will include the central assistance of Rs 2.2 lakh crore in the next five years," she added.

The government also plans to provide interest subsidy to facilitate loans at affordable rates, the minister said.

Sitharaman proposed that the government will put in place policies for promoting rental housing markets. "...enabling policies and regulations for efficient and transparent rental housing markets with enhanced availability will also be put in place," she said.

Further, the minister said the government will facilitate rental housing with dormitory-type accommodation for industrial workers.

This will be done in PPP (public-private partnership) mode with VGF support and commitment from anchor industries.

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Centre’s ‘no’ to special status for Bihar evokes cryptic response from Nitish Kumar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday came out with a cryptic response to the Centre’s refusal to grant special category status to the state.

Kumar, whose JD (U) is a key ally of the ruling NDA at the Centre, was asked about the Union government's statement in Parliament on Monday. “You will get to know all things slowly, and slowly (sab kuchh dhire dhire jaan jaaiyega),” the longest-serving Chief Minister of the state said, in reply to a volley of questions he faced from journalists at the Bihar Assembly.

Flashing his trademark smile of ambiguity, the veteran leader rushed inside the House, waving at the posse of journalists that stood trying to read his impregnable mind.

Notably, after the Lok Sabha polls in which the BJP fell short of majority, becoming heavily dependent on allies, the JD (U) had held a national executive meeting where a resolution was passed raising a fresh demand for special status. Leaders of the JD (U), which has two ministers in the Union government, insist that the resolution also spoke of “special package and other types of help” and that Bihar could still get a lot from Narendra Modi government.

However, Opposition leaders in the state think Bihar has been taken for a ride. Kumar’s arch-rival Lalu Prasad, the RJD president, feels that the JD (U) supremo should resign.

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Government to abolish angel tax on investments in startups

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced abolishing angel tax for all classes of investors in startups.

In her Budget speech, she also announced various changes with respect to tax rates for e-commerce players and certain financial instruments in the context of long-term capital gains.

"First of all, to bolster the Indian startup ecosystem, boost the entrepreneurial spirit and support innovation, I propose to abolish the so-called angel tax for all classes of investors," she said. The removal of the angel tax is expected to be a boost for startups as it will help in promoting a more conducive environment for them.

Sitharaman also proposed to thoroughly simplify the I-T provisions for reopening and reassessment to reduce uncertainty and disputes.

"An assessment hereinafter can be reopened beyond three years from the end of the assessment year only if the escaped income is Rs 50 lakh or more, up to a maximum period of five years from the end of the assessment year. "Even in search cases, a time limit of six years before the year of search, as against the existing time limit of ten years, is proposed. This will reduce tax-uncertainty and disputes," she said.

Further, she said long-term gains on financial and non-financial assets will attract a tax rate of 12.5% while the TDS rate will be reduced to 0.1 per cent from 1% for e-commerce operators.

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Government withdraws equalisation levy of 2%: FM

The government on Tuesday announced withdrawal of the 2% equalisation levy.

Presenting the Budget for 2024-25 in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the standard deduction for salaried employees will be hiked to Rs 75,000, from Rs 50,000 under new income tax regime in FY25.

The government raised the deduction limit to 14% from 10% for employers' contribution for the National Pension System (NPS). Besides, the government proposed to increase tax deduction on family pension for pensioners to Rs 25,000 from Rs 15,000.

The finance minister added that salaried employees under the new tax regime will save up to Rs 17,500 annually in taxes due to the changes proposed in the FY25 Budget.

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New Tax Slabs announced

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has proposed new tax slabs as she presented the Union Budget in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. 

New Tax Slabs

Upto Rs 3 lakh Nil

Rs 3-7 Lakh 5%

Rs 7-10 Lakh 10% 

Rs 10-12 Lakh 15%

Rs 12-15 Lakh 20%  

Above Rs 15 Lakh 30%

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FDI rules will be simplified, says Sitharaman in Budget speech

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced plans to simplify Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules and present the Union Budget 2024-25.

The government will create a five-year vision document to meet economic needs, encourage privatisation, and use the Indian rupee for overseas investments, she said.

Additionally, the government will develop a taxonomy for climate finance and revamp the Shram Suvidha Portal to improve industry and trade compliance.

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Govt will strive to further simplify, rationalise GST tax structure: FM

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced plans to simplify and rationalise the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to promote business ease. She also proposed rationalizing customs duty rates and announced exemptions on three more cancer treatment drugs.

GST, introduced on July 1, 2017, reduced tax incidence for the common man and reduced logistics costs for industry, she said.

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Standard deduction for salaried employees hiked to Rs 75,000

The standard deduction for salaried employees hiked to Rs 75,000, from Rs 50,000 under the new income tax regime in FY25, announced Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

According to the minister, the government proposesd to increase tax deduction on family pension for pensioners to Rs 25,000 from Rs 15,000.

The government also raised deduction limit to 14% from 10% for employers contribution for NPS.

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Centre to boost water, waste management in 100 large cities

The Centre along with states and multilateral development banks will promote water supply, sewage treatment and solid waste management projects and services in 100 large cities through bankable projects, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday.

Presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha, she said these projects will also envisage the use of treated water for irrigation and filling up of tanks in nearby areas.

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Government to set up working women hostels

For promoting women-led development, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the Budget carries an allocation of over Rs 3 lakh crore for schemes benefitting women and girls.

Presenting the Union Budget for 2024-25 in the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman said this signals the government's commitment in enhancing women's role in economic development.

Sitharaman said the government will set up working women hostels to promote their participation in the workforce.

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Vishnupad Temple, Mahabodhi Temple in Bihar to be developed: FM Sitharaman

Finance Minister Sitharaman announced in Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the government will support the development of Nalanda in Bihar as a tourist centre. 

The minister said that the government will also support the development of corridors at Vishnupad Temple (Gaya) and Mahabodhi Temple (Gaya) in line with Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

The government also provide assistance to Odisha for development of tourism, the minister added.

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Bihar gets Rs 21,400 crore for power projects

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday that power projects, including setting up a new 2400 MW power plant at Pirpainti in Bihar, will be taken up at a cost of Rs 21,400 crore.

Presenting the Union Budget, the minister said PM Surya Ghar Muft Bijli Yojana generated a remarkable response with 1.8 crore people registering under it.

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MSME sector gets a major boost

The government will come out with a credit guarantee scheme for MSMEs to facilitate term loans without collateral or third-party guarantee, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday.

Presenting her seventh straight Union Budget, she also said that public sector banks will build in-house capability for credit assessment of MSMEs.

As part of a slew of measures to boost the sector, the government will reduce the turnover threshold of MSME buyers for mandatory onboarding on TReDs platform from Rs 500 crore to Rs 250 crore. TReDS is an online platform to help MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises).

Among other steps, SIDBI will open 24 new branches to serve MSMEs clusters. In the Budget, Sitharaman said Rs 2.66 lakh crore is being provided for rural development.

Further, the government will launch saturation drive under Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PM JANMAN).

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One crore youths to get internship opportunities in top 500 companies

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that the government will launch a scheme to provide internship opportunities to one crore youths in top 500 companies over five years.

Presenting the Union Budget in Lok Sabha, the minister said Rs 20,000 crore will be allocated for highways in Bihar.

Also, the government will promote investment-ready industrial parks in 100 cities.

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Rs 15,000 crore announced for development of capital city of Andhra Pradesh

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced that the government will arrange Rs 15,000 crore this fiscal and in future years for the development of the capital city of Andhra Pradesh.

Currently, Telugu Desam Party is a major ally of the BJP at the Centre and state level. 

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu recently was in the national capital to meet top BJP leadership and Union ministers. 

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Road projects in Bihar to get Rs 26,000 crore: FM Sitharaman

Presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will formulate a plan Purvodaya for the all-round development of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh.

“We will support industrial corridor for development in the eastern region,” the minister said. 

The minister said that the government has proposed Rs 26,000 crore for various road projects in Bihar.

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Budget provides Rs 1.48 lakh crore for education, employment, skill: FM Sitharaman

The Union Budget for 2024-25 will provide Rs 1.48 lakh crore for education, employment and skilling in the country.

Presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said it will focus on employment, skilling, MSMEs and the middle class.

The government will provide e-vouchers directly to one lakh students every year with interest subvention of 3% of the loan amount, the Minister added. 

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Budget to focus on employment, middle class: FM Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the implementation of various schemes announced in the Interim Budget in February are still underway.

“People have given a unique opportunity to our government to take India on the path of strong development,” she said in Lok Sabha while presenting the Budget. 

The Minister said the Budget for FY25 will provide Rs 1.48 lakh crore for education and employment and skill. The budget will focus on employment, skilling, MSME and the middle class, Sitharaman said. 

Similarly, she informed the House that the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojna was extended for five years benefiting 80 crore people.

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India’s economic growth continues to shine: FM Sitharaman

Presenting her seventh straight Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the people of India have reinforced their faith in the government led by Narendra Modi and re-elected it for a third term. 

The Finance Minister said while the global economy is still in the grip of policy uncertainty, India's economic growth continues to shine.

India’s inflation continues to be stable and moving towards 4% target, core inflation stands at 3.1%, the finance minister said.

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Nirmala Sitharaman starts presenting Budget

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has started presenting her seventh straight Budget that would lay a roadmap for Viksit Bharat (developed India) by 2047, while giving a glimpse of the Modi government's performance in the past 10 years.

All eyes will be on whether Sitharaman provides the much-expected tax relief for the middle class, leaving more money in their hands, as there is tax buoyancy. 

Besides, the market also expects staying on the fiscal glide path to lower the fiscal deficit to 4.5% of GDP by 2025-26.

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Six Russians detained close to Kudankulam nuclear reactor

Six Russians besides three others who were moving around close to the Kudankulam nuclear reactor area here were detained by the police on suspicion, a senior official said on Tuesday.

The Russians, which included a woman, accompanied by two persons from Valliyoor and a car driver from Thiruvananthapuram in neighbouring Kerala were picked up by the Kudankulam police on suspicion on Monday, he said. They were interrogated for nearly six hours, the official added. Police said fishers from Idinthakarai village alerted them after noticing some foreigners moving around in their village.

Kudankulam has two 1,000 MWe nuclear reactors built with Russian assistance and four more similar units are coming up at the same complex.

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Soldier injured as Army foils infiltration bid in J-K's Poonch

A soldier was injured as the Army thwarted an infiltration bid along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district early Tuesday, officials said.

"Alert troops foiled an infiltration bid by effectively engaging infiltrating terrorists with effective fire in the Battal sector at 0300 hours," White Knight Corps said on X.

"During the exchange of heavy fire, one braveheart has been injured. Operations are continuing," the Corps said. According to sources, a group of armed terrorists tried to enter into Battal forward area of the Krishnagati belt but alert troops picked up their movement and immediately took action.

In the intense firefight, troops forced the terrorists to retreat but a soldier was injured and has been hospitalised, they said, adding there was a loss caused to the terrorists.

A search operation has been launched in the area, they said.

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All eyes on tax relief for middle class in Nirmala Sitharaman’s first Budget of Modi 3.0 government today

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is set to present the first Budget of the third consecutive NDA government today. This is Sitharaman’s record seventh straight Budget and would be presented in paperless form, as has been done in the last three years.

The Union Budget 2024 will be the first major economic document of the Modi 3.0 government and is expected to lay a roadmap for Viksit Bharat (developed India) by 2047, while giving a glimpse of 10 years' performance. All eyes will be on whether Sitharaman provides the much-expected tax relief for the middle class, leaving more money in their hands, as there is tax buoyancy. Besides, the market also expects staying on the fiscal glide path to lower the fiscal deficit to 4.5% of GDP by 2025-26.

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are each likely to have a 20-hour discussion on the Union budget, with the Lower House expected to have separate debates covering ministries of railways, education, health, MSME and food processing, sources told PTI.  In Rajya Sabha, PTI’s sources said, a discussion for eight hours is likely to be scheduled on the appropriation and finance bills, and a four-hour debate each on four ministries, which are yet to be identified.

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Security beefed up at India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya: BSF

Security was beefed up at the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya to prevent illegal immigration in view of the ongoing unrest in the neighbouring country, a BSF official said on Monday.

The exercise, called 'Ops Alert', aims to ensure effective border domination and management, Inspector General (IG) of BSF's Meghalaya Frontier Harbax Singh Dhillon said. BSF has facilitated the entry of 574 Indian students, 435 Nepal students, and eight Bhutanese students through the Dawki Integrated Check Post in East Khasi Hills district, and 18 students entered today through the Kilapara ICP in West Garo Hills district, he said.

BSF personnel are being directed to provide assistance to students at the border, including drinking water, food, and medical assistance. More students are expected to cross over as the unrest in Bangladesh is unlikely to subside soon, he added.

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Nirmala Sitharman set to make history with 7th consecutive Budget

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is set to create history when she presents her seventh straight Budget today for the fiscal 2024-25, surpassing the record of former prime minister Morarji Desai.

Sitharaman, who will turn 65 next month, was in 2019 appointed as India's first full-time woman finance minister when Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a decisive second term. Since then, she has presented six straight budgets, including an interim one in February this year. The full Budget for the 2024-25 fiscal (April 2024 to March 2025) will be her seventh straight. She will better Desai's record, who presented consecutive five full budgets and one interim budget between 1959 to 1964.

This year will witness two budgets — an interim one in February and a full one today. This is because an incumbent government cannot present a full Budget just before general elections.

The presentation today will be the first Budget by the BJP-led NDA government since it was re-elected last month.

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230 villages submerged during Sardar Sarovar Project construction: Govt

Due to the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Project, 230 villages got submerged, four fully and rest partially, the Jal Shakti ministry said on Monday.

Responding to a question in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Jal Shakti Rajbhushan Choudhary said, so far 32,552 families have been resettled or extended the 'Resettlement & Rehabilitation' (R&R) package in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. Basic amenities as mandated under the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award have been provided to all these families resettled in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, the minister said.

In Maharashtra, out of 14 R&R sites, civic amenities have been provided in 13, he said.

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Sailor missing after fire aboard INS Brahmaputra

A sailor is missing after a fire broke out aboard the Navy's multi-role frigate. “A fire had broken out on board Indian Naval Ship Brahmaputra, a multi-role frigate, on the evening of July 21 while she was undergoing refit at Naval Dockyard Mumbai,” an official release said on Monday. 

“All the personnel have been accounted for except one junior sailor, for whom the search is in progress. An inquiry has been ordered by the Indian Navy to investigate the accident,” the release said. “The fire was brought under control by the ship’s crew with the assistance of fire-fighters from the dockyard and other ships in harbour, by the morning of July 22. Further follow-on actions including sanitisation checks for assessment of residual risk of fire were carried out,” it said.

In the afternoon on Monday, the ship experienced severe listing to one side (port side), the release said. “Despite all efforts, the ship could not be brought to the upright position. The ship continued to list further alongside her berth and is presently resting on one side,” it added.

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Parliament

Budget will usher in new era of employment, opportunities: Amit Shah

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday said Budget 2024-25 will fuel the country's pace on the path of emerging as a developed nation by ushering in a new era of employment and opportunities.

He also said the budget reflects Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "unwavering commitment" to driving economic growth by bolstering India's entrepreneurial power and ease of doing business.

"Harnessing the power of Bharat's youth, Nari Shakti and farmers, the budget fuels the nation's pace on the path of emerging as a developed nation by ushering in a new era of employment and opportunities," he wrote on X with the hashtag #BudgetForViksitBharat. The home minister said the budget is a reflection of the resolve of the NDA government under the leadership of Modi to fulfill the hopes, aspirations and trust of the countrymen.

"This budget is an important step towards building a developed and self-reliant India by empowering the youth and women as well as providing many opportunities for farmers," he said.

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'Kursi Bachao Budget': Rahul Gandhi slams government

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday dubbed the Union Budget a "kursi bachao budget" and claimed it makes "hollow promises" to BJP allies at the cost of other states.

The former Congress chief also claimed that the budget was "copy and paste" job of the Congress manifesto for 2024 polls and previous budgets. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the budget for 2024-25, her seventh straight presentation, surpassing the record of former prime minister Morarji Desai. This is the first budget in Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government's third term in office.

In a post on X, Gandhi said, " 'Kursi Bachao' Budget. Appease Allies: Hollow promises to them at the cost of other states. Appease Cronies: Benefits to AA with no relief for the common Indian. Copy and Paste: Congress manifesto and previous budgets." The Congress also slammed the Union Budget as being "more focused on posturing than action" and claimed that the "copy-paste government" has borrowed heavily from the party's manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls.

The opposition party in its post claimed that the government had "tacitly" admitted that "mass unemployment is a national crisis", and said the budget has "political compulsions written all over it".

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Cabinet clears Union Budget 2024-25

The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday approved the full budget for 2024-25, sources said. Following this, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present her seventh budget in the Lok Sabha.

Sitharaman, the first full-time woman finance minister of the country, has presented five full budgets since July 2019 and an interim budget on February 1, 2024. This is the first budget of the BJP-led NDA government in its third term in office.

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Sitharaman again takes tablet in red pouch to present paperless Budget

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday again took a digital tablet wrapped in a traditional 'bahi-khata' style pouch as she headed for Parliament to present the full Budget 2024-25 in a paperless format just like the previous years.

Draped in a white silk saree with magenta border, she posed for the traditional 'briefcase' picture outside her office, along with her team of officials, before heading to meet the President. With the tablet carefully kept inside a red cover with a golden-coloured national emblem embossed on it instead of the briefcase, Parliament will be her next destination after the call on President Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Sitharaman, India's first full-time woman Finance Minister, had in July 2019 ditched the colonial legacy of a Budget briefcase for the traditional 'bahi-khata' to carry Union Budget papers. She used the same in the following year, and in a pandemic-hit 2021, she swapped traditional papers with a digital tablet for carrying her speech and other Budget documents. That tradition has continued on Tuesday.

Her Budget for the fiscal beginning April 2024 (FY2024-25) is the Modi government's 13th straight Budget since 2014 (including two interim Budgets presented ahead of general elections in 2019 and 2024).

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No case made out for granting special category status to Bihar: Govt in Lok Sabha

The government cited an inter-ministerial group report prepared in 2012 to assert in Lok Sabha on Monday that a case for granting special category status to Bihar is not made out, a day after BJP's allies from Bihar demanded the status for the backward state.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Monsoon session, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary said special category status was granted in the past by the National Development Council (NDC) to some states which were characterised by a number of features necessitating special consideration. These included hilly and difficult terrain, low population density or sizeable share of tribal population, strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries, economic and infrastructural backwardness and non-viable nature of state finances, he said in reply to a question asked by JD(U) member Rampreet Mandal.

The decision was taken based on an integrated consideration of all the factors listed above and the peculiar situation of a state, the minister said.

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Politics

Telangana received nothing in Union Budget: BRS leader K T Rama Rao

BRS Working President K T Rama Rao on Tuesday expressed disappointment with the Union Budget, alleging that only a few states received major benefits with Telangana receiving nothing despite having a budget of more than Rs 48 lakh crore.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday presented the Budget for 2024-25. This is the first Budget during Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government's third term in office. Referring to BJP and Congress winning eight Lok Sabha seats each in Telangana (out of 17), Rama Rao said the people of the state should think as to what happened when they gave 16 seats to the two national parties. BRS drew a blank in the LS polls.

"It is disappointing that Telangana is not mentioned in the entire Budget. Once again, Telangana received nothing," he said in a statement. Stating that BRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao had requested the Centre to take decisions on about 35 "promises" made to Telangana in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 when he was chief minister, Rama Rao said national status has not been granted to any irrigation projects in the state despite requests.

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Union Budget aimed at saving life of NDA coalition at Centre: Kerala FM

Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal on Tuesday slammed the Union Budget for the financial year 2024-25 by calling it a “political exercise” aimed at saving the life of the NDA coalition at the Centre.

Balagopal said the budget was anti-people and anti-nation which did not take into account the needs of various states, including the legitimate requirements of Kerala.

The Minister said the budget indicates that the Modi government is not fit to talk about cooperative federalism. “Once BJP opened its account in Kerala, they closed the account of the state,” he said, expressing extreme dissatisfaction and disappointment with the Union budget.

Kerala had requested the Centre to announce a special package of Rs 24,000 crore for the southern state in the Union Budget 2024-25.

The state had also urgently sought a special capital investment of Rs 5,000 crore for fulfilling Kerala's part in the development of the Vizhinjam port and the surrounding region. “This budget is aimed at extending the life of the NDA government at the Centre. It needs to be protested against,” he told reporters in a press conference held after the Union Budget announcement.

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Not even a penny for Delhi as share in central taxes: Atishi on Union Budget

Delhi Finance Minister Atishi on Tuesday said despite paying Rs 2.32 lakh crore in taxes to the BJP-led Centre, the national capital has not even got a single penny as its share in central taxes in the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha.

Addressing a press conference, Atishi said Delhi had demanded a budgetary allocation for the MCD but it did not get even a single rupee from the Centre. “Delhi is the growth engine of the country. It pays over Rs 2 lakh crore in income tax to the Centre and Rs 25,000 crore as central GST. Despite paying Rs 2.32 lakh crore in taxes to the Centre, Delhi was asking for just Rs 20,000 crore, which is just 0.4% of the Union Budget. But no money was given as its share in central taxes or to the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi),” the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said.

She challenged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to “show even one thing done for Delhi in the last 11 budgets presented by its government at the Centre”.

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Maharashtra neglected in Union Budget: NCP (SP)

The NCP (SP) on Tuesday said the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was not for India but for the NDA allies of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.

In a post on ‘X’, NCP (SP) spokesperson Clyde Crasto said Maharashtra was neglected in the Budget, and people of the state will give the BJP a befitting reply in the Assembly polls later this year. “Did Mrs @nsitharaman just present the #Budget for #Bihar and #AndhraPradesh? This is a hold on to 'Crutches #Budget2024'. @BJP4India-led #NDA government knows that if the Budget is not favourable for Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, their government will fall. Mrs #NirmalaSitaraman presented a budget to benefit the NDA, not #India.”

“P.S: Neglected people of #Maharashtra will give a befitting reply to #BJP in the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha elections. Jai Hind Jai Maharashtra,” Crasto wrote. The Union Budget allocated substantial funds for Bihar, including over Rs 26,000 crore for highway development and Rs 11,500 crore for flood mitigation efforts, while Andhra Pradesh received significant financial aid, including Rs 15,000 crore for the state capital's development with ongoing commitments for future support.

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Trinamool Congress renames Union Budget as the 'Andhra-Bihar Budget'

The Trinamool Congress on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and said the Union Budget reflected the fiscal and political bankruptcy of the regime.

In a social media post, the party dismissed the term 'Union Budget 2024', renaming it as the ‘Andhra-Bihar Budget’. Senior TMC leader Kunal Ghosh in a post on X said, “This budget should not be labeled as union budget. It is a budget to keep Andhra Pradesh and Bihar happy. To save one's chair and keeping some others in good humour.”

Accusing the Modi government of neglecting West Bengal and replicating successful social welfare schemes pioneered by the Mamata Banerjee administration, Ghosh emphasised that the Budget failed to address the nation's core issues and merely manipulated statistics and rhetoric. Summing up his criticism, the former Rajya Sabha MP described the Budget proposals as emblematic of the Centre's financial and political bankruptcy.

TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee told reporters in Delhi that "the Modi government's continued deprivation of Bengal will face a strong response from the people."

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Mayawati accuses BJP-led Centre of appeasement over RSS order

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Monday criticised the Centre’s decision to lift the 58-year-old ban on government employees participating in RSS activities, calling it a politically motivated move aimed at appeasing the RSS. She has called for the immediate reversal of the order.

"The Centre's decision to lift the 58-year-old ban on government employees from attending RSS shakhas is a politically motivated move to appease the RSS rather than serving the national interest. This is to ease the tensions that intensified between the two after the Lok Sabha elections over government policies and their arrogant attitude," Mayawati said in a statement on X. Mayawati argued that RSS activities are politically biased and benefit a specific party. She emphasised that government employees should operate within the bounds of the Constitution.

"However, the activities of the RSS, which have often been banned, are not only political but also electoral for a particular party. In such a situation, this decision is unfair and should be withdrawn immediately," she added.

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Sports

PCB leaves it up to ICC to convince India to travel to Pakistan for Champions Trophy

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has left it up to the International Cricket Council (ICC) to convince the BCCI to send its team to Pakistan for the upcoming champions Trophy, scheduled to be held in the first quarter of next year.

According to a PCB source, while the budget for the Champions Trophy was approved at the recent ICC meetings in Colombo, the schedule and format didn’t come up for discussion at all. “The PCB now has done what was required of it as hosts of the Champions Trophy. It has submitted the draft schedule and format for the event and also submitted budget for the event,” a PCB insider said.

“It is now up to the ICC how soon they circulate, discuss and finalize the schedule of the Champions Trophy. The PCB for its part in the draft schedule has suggested hosting all of India’s games in Lahore including a semi-final (if India qualifies) and final,” he said. Another source said that the PCB has already submitted all details in its expression of interest document with the ICC as hosts of the Champions Trophy.

“The PCB for its part has given in writing to the ICC about the tax modalities, venue selections and clearance from its government for Indian team to be hosted in Pakistan for the mega event,” he added.

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Bindra awarded Olympic Order by IOC for outstanding services to Olympic Movement

Indian shooting legend Abhinav Bindra has been awarded the Olympic Order by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for his outstanding services to the Olympic Movement.

The award ceremony will be held during the 142nd IOC Session in Paris on August 10, a day before the closing of the Olympics.

"It is with great pleasure that I inform you that the IOC Executive Board has decided to award you with the Olympic Order for your outstanding services to the Olympic Movement," IOC President wrote in a letter addressed to Bindra and dated July 20. The Olympic Order is the highest award of the IOC, given for distinguished contributions to the Olympic Movement. 

It is awarded to recognise an individual who has illustrated the Olympic ideal through his/her action, has achieved remarkable merit in the sporting world, or has rendered outstanding services to the Olympic cause, either through his own personal achievement or his contribution to the development of sport.

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Charith Asalanka replaces Wanindu Hasaranga as Sri Lanka's T20 captain for India series

Sri Lanka has appointed batter Charith Asalanka as the new T20I captain for their upcoming three-match home series against India. Asalanka succeeds all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga, who stepped down following Sri Lanka's group stage exit in the 2024 T20 World Cup.

India's tour of Sri Lanka includes three T20Is and three ODIs. Like Sri Lanka, India will also have a new captain, with Suryakumar Yadav leading the team. Both Asalanka and Yadav have previously captained their respective sides, with Asalanka leading Sri Lanka in two T20Is against Bangladesh earlier this year.

Hasaranga remains part of the squad, along with senior players such as Maheesh Theeksana, Dinesh Chandimal, and Dasun Shanaka. Sri Lanka Cricket has not yet announced any changes in captaincy for other formats. Currently, Kusal Mendis captains the ODI team, while Dhananjaya de Silva leads the Test team.

Sri Lanka squad: Charith Asalanka (capt), Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Janith Perera (wk), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Mendis (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Kamindu Mendis, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dunith Wellalage, Maheesh Theekshana, Chamindu Wickramasinghe, Matheesha Pathirana, Nuwan Thushara, Dushmantha Chameera, Binura Fernando.

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India men's cricket team arrives in Sri Lanka for white-ball series

The Indian men's cricket team under new head coach Gautam Gambhir and captain Suryakumar Yadav arrived in Pallekele, Sri Lanka, via Colombo to a warm welcome, with the recently-crowned T20 world champions playfully mingling with fans and giving them some precious moments.

The 15-member India team along with the support staff had left Mumbai on Monday after a pre-departure press conference addressed by Gambhir, who took over Rahul Dravid as the national coach, and BCCI's chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar. India will play a three-match T20I series against the home side, who are yet to announce their squad. The Suryakumar-led side will play the first of the three T20Is on July 27, followed by matches on July 28 and 30.

The team will then travel to Colombo to play three One-day Internationals scheduled for August 2, 4 and 7.

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State

TN CM bats for voluntary steps by traders to put up nameboards in Tamil

Traders should voluntarily come forward to display on nameboards, the names of their shops in Tamil language, Chief Minister M K Stalin said in Chennai on Tuesday.

Addressing a meeting of members of the Tamil Nadu Traders Welfare Board at the Secretariat, Stalin said the board, which was set up by late Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in 1989, is functioning well. When the president of the traders body, Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaippu, A M Vikramaraja and other office-bearers met him recently, they assured him that steps would be taken to install nameboards in Tamil in all the shops of Tamil Nadu, the chief minister said.

Such action should be voluntary in nature rather than traders doing it based on the government telling them, he emphasised.

Nobody should comment that the Tamil language could not be spotted in the streets of Tamil Nadu, he said, referring to nameboards, and added that traders should, on their own volition, come forward to change the display of names in Tamil language.

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Arunachal Assembly passes two government Bills

The Arunachal Pradesh Assembly on Tuesday passed two important government Bills.

 Arunachal Pradesh Public Examination (Measures to Prevent Unfair Means in Recruitment) Bill and the Arunachal Pradesh Amending Bill 2024 were passed by voice vote.

The Arunachal Pradesh Public Examination (Measures to Prevent Unfair Means in Recruitment) Bill, presented by Chief Minister Pema Khandu, is aimed at providing effective measures to prevent and curb offences of question paper leaks and use of unfair means in examinations for recruitment to any post in the state government. A provision dealing with designation of a special court for speedy trial of such offences has also been provided in the Bill.

According to the Bill, any person resorting to such unfair means would be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than three years, which may be extended to five years, and with a fine up to Rs 1 crore.

The assembly also passed the Arunachal Pradesh Amending Bill, 2024 in its amended form. The Bill, which was introduced by Law and Justice Minister Kento Jini on July 19, will substitute the words Indian Penal Code 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act 1872 with Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adiniyam 2023, respectively, in several state Acts.

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Budget unveils big-ticket measures for Bihar; outlines plans for new airports, sports, power infra

The Union Budget for 2024-25 has revealed significant measures for Bihar, including an outlay of Rs 26,000 crore for road projects, plans for new airports and sports infrastructure, and a flood mitigation grant of Rs 11,500 crore.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government will arrange financial assistance for Bihar through multilateral development agencies. Rs 20,000 crore will be allocated for highways in the state, while new airports, medical colleges, and sports infrastructure will be established. “New airports and sports infrastructure will be constructed in Bihar and additional allocation to support capital investment will be provided…the request of Bihar government for external assistance from multilateral development banks will be expedited,” Sitharaman said.

The eastern part of the country will be supported for the construction of an industrial node at Gaya, a model for developing ancient cultural centres into modern economy centres. "We will also support development of road connectivity projects namely--Patna-Punia Expressway, Buxar-Bhagalpur Expressway...and additional two lane bridge over Ganga at Buxar at a total cost of Rs 26,000 crore,” she said.

Nalanda in Bihar will be developed as a tourist centre. Power projects, including a 2400 MW power plant at Pirpainti (Bihar), will also be undertaken at a cost of Rs 21,400 crore, she added.

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Raj Bhavan fines two TMC MLAs over 'illegal' swearing-in

Two newly elected Trinamool Congress MLAs, who were sworn in by the West Bengal Assembly Speaker recently, on Monday said they received mails from Raj Bhavan questioning the legality of the process and asking them to pay a fine of Rs 500 each.

Speaker Biman Banerjee had administered the oath to two MLAs — Rayat Hossain Sarkar and Sayantika Banerjee - on July 5 in the assembly, though the Governor had appointed Deputy Speaker Asish Banerjee for the task. Sarkar said the mails informed the two that a fine of Rs 500 was imposed on each of them since, it alleged, their oath-taking and attending assembly session on its first day violated Constitutional norms.

Sayantika Banerjee said, "We have met the Speaker and showed him the mail. He said the Speaker's office is looking into the issue."

The emails also alleged that several clauses were violated by the two newly elected MLAs by taking oath under the Speaker and attending the House session. 

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Karnataka cabinet gives nod for resolutions against NEET, 'One Nation, One Election', delimitation

The Karnataka Cabinet that met on Monday night under the leadership of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has given its approval for adopting three resolutions, including one against the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), official sources said.

The other two resolutions are said to be against 'One Nation, One Election' and delimitation of constituencies for the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.

The resolutions are likely to be tabled during the ongoing legislature session, probably today itself, the sources said.

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Trigger warning: sexual assault Karnataka: JD(S) legislator Suraj Revanna granted bail in sexual assault case

Trigger warning: sexual assault
A Bengaluru court has granted bail to Janata Dal (Secular) MLC Suraj Revanna, the brother of former party MP Prajwal Revanna, in connection with a sexual assault case filed against him by a party worker. 

Suraj Revanna was arrested June 23 on a complaint of sexual assault by a 27-year-old man who worked with the party’s youth wing. However on Monday, Special judge Gajanan Bhat granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh. The judge also directed Suraj Revanna to submit his passport to the court and said that he would not be allowed to leave Karnataka without getting permission from it.

“The petitioner shall not in any manner contact the victim directly or indirectly….The petitioner shall appear before the IO [investigating officer] on every second Sunday of the month and mark his attendance between 9 am to 5 pm for a period of six months or till filing of chargesheet, whichever is earlier,” the court added. 

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Weather

Downpour in parts of Uttarakhand, schools in Doon to remain shut today

Dehradun district administration has ordered all government and private schools in the state to close on July 23 due to heavy rain that lashed parts of Uttarakhand on Monday.

The rain caused waterlogging in several areas, including Rajpur road, Gandhi road, Prince chowk, Saharanpur chowk, Haridwar road, Shimla bypass, and Asharodi chowk. The MeT department issued a "yellow" alert for heavy rain in Tehri, Dehradun, and Haridwar districts, with heavy to very heavy rain predicted on Tuesday.

Dehradun District Magistrate Sonika issued an order for all government and private schools from class 1 to 12 to remain closed, along with Anganwadi centres, to prevent any untoward incidents due to increased vulnerability to landslides.

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Budget

Opposition says states ruled by it ignored, slams BJP for appeasing allies

The Opposition on Tuesday termed the Union Budget as a 'kursi bachao budget' driven by political compulsions and claimed that it ignored Opposition-ruled states in a bid to "appease" BJP's allies.

The Congress slammed the Budget as being "more focused on posturing than action" and claimed that the "copy-paste government" borrowed heavily from the party's manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls. The attack by opposition parties came after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the budget in the Lok Sabha.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Rahul Gandhi dubbed the Union Budget a "kursi bachao budget" and claimed it makes "hollow promises" to BJP allies at the cost of other states.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge termed the budget “copycat” and alleged that it is not for the progress of the country but to "save the Modi government". Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav slammed the Budget, claiming that it has ignored the interests of the youth and farmers.

Speaking to reporters, Yadav linked Sitharaman's announcements of several development measures for Bihar and Andhra Pradesh to the BJP's political compulsion to "save" its government and asked if there was anything for Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee dubbed the Union Budget 2024-25 as "politically biased and anti-poor" and slammed the Centre for "depriving" her state.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi termed the budget 'Pradhan Mantri Sarkar Bachao Yojana'.

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Gold, silver, imported mobile, cancer drugs to be cheaper

Gold, silver and other precious metals along with imported mobile phones, certain cancer drugs and medical devices are set to become cheaper with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing cuts in customs duty in the Union Budget 2024-25.

However, certain items such as imported garden umbrellas and laboratory chemicals are also set to become costly due to an increase in basic customs duty.

The following is a list of items set to become cheaper and costlier. Cheaper:

Gold bar and dore, Silver bar and dore, Platinum, Palladium, Osmium, Ruthenium and Iridium, Coins of precious metals

Platinum and Palladium used in the manufacture of noble metal solutions, noble metal compounds and catalytic convertors

Cancer Drugs - Trastuzumab Deruxtecan, Osimertinib, Durvalumab Medical Equipment, all types of polyethylene for use in manufacture of orthopaedic implants, X-ray tubes for use in manufacture of X-ray machines for medical, surgical, dental or veterinary use

Flat panel detectors (including scintillators) for use in manufacture of X-ray machines for medical, surgical, dental or veterinary use Imported cellular mobile phone, Charger/Adapter of cellular mobile, Printed Circuit Board Assembly of cellular mobile phone, Specified capital goods for use in manufacture of solar cells or solar modules, and parts for manufacture of such capital goods

Shea nuts Fish lipid oil for use in manufacture of aquatic feed Crude fish oil for use in manufacture of aquatic feed

Natural Graphite, Natural sands of all kinds, Quartz, Critical Minerals, Lithium carbonates, Lithium oxide and hydroxide, Nitrates of potassium, Steel Sector - Ferro Nickel and Blister Copper

Textile and Leather Sector - Methylene Diphenyl Di-isocyanate (MDI) for use in the manufacture of Spandex Yarn Poly vinyl chloride (PVC) flex films (also known as PVC flex banners or PVC flex sheets)

Garden umbrellas, Laboratory chemicals, Solar glass for manufacture of solar cells or solar modules

Tinned copper interconnect for manufacture of solar cells or solar modules.

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Nitish Kumar hails Union Budget, says it addressed state’s concerns

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday said the “special help” announced in the Union Budget addressed the state's concerns, which had previously led to demands for special category status.

Speaking to reporters after the Budget, he said, “We had proposed that if special status wasn't feasible for technical reasons, Bihar should receive special assistance (vishesh madat) from the Centre in another form, which has been announced today.” The JD(U) supremo evaded a direct reply to a query as to whether he was giving up the demand for special status, and when asked if he was happy with the budget, reacted with a categorical "Haan, bhai (yes, of course).

He also trained his guns at the RJD-Congress-Left combine, which had disrupted the day's proceedings over denial of special status to Bihar.

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Census, NPR unlikely in 2024 too as only Rs 1,309.46 crore allocated in Budget

The Budget 2024-24 on Tuesday allocated Rs 1,309.46 crore for census, a significant reduction from 2021-22 when Rs 3,768 crore was allocated for the decadal exercise, an indication that it may not be carried out even after a significant delay.

A meeting of the Union cabinet on December 24, 2019 had approved the proposal for conducting census of India 2021 at a cost of Rs 8,754.23 crore and updating the National Population Register (NPR) at a cost of Rs 3,941.35 crore. The house listing phase of the census and the exercise to update the NPR were scheduled to be carried out across the country from April 1 to September 30, 2020 but were postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The census operation continues to be on hold and the government has not yet announced the new schedule.

Officials said since general elections had taken place this year, the census exercise will not be able to be carried out in 2024. According to the Budget 2024-25, Rs 1,309.46 crore has been allocated for census surveys and statistics, and it was Rs 578.29 in 2023-24.

The entire census and NPR exercise is likely to cost the government over Rs 12,000 crore, the officials said.

This exercise, whenever it will happen, will be the first digital census giving the citizens an opportunity to self-enumerate. The NPR has been made compulsory for citizens who want to exercise the right to fill the census form on their own rather than through government enumerators. 

For this, the census authority has designed a self-enumeration portal that is yet to be launched.

During self-enumeration, Aadhaar or mobile number will be mandatorily collected. The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner had prepared 31 questions to be asked to the citizens.

Those questions include whether a family has telephone, internet connection, mobile or smartphone, bicycle, scooter or motorcycle or moped and whether they own a car, jeep or a van.

The citizens will also be asked questions such as the cereal they consume in the household, main source of drinking water, main source of lighting, access to latrine, type of latrine, waste water outlet, availability of bathing facility, availability of kitchen and LPG/PNG connection, main fuel used for cooking and availability of radio, transistor and television.

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After long gap, Andhra gets more state-specific allocations in Union Budget

Amid mounting calls for Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh, the Union Budget on Tuesday promised significant allocations to the state, including Rs 15,000 crore for the development of the capital, Amaravati.

Ahead of the budget presentation today, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu made a couple of visits to the national capital where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, presenting various requests to them. The allocations in the budget for Andhra Pradesh underscore the NDA government's reliance on crucial support from the Telugu Desam Party, which holds 16 Lok Sabha seats, and actor Pawan Kalyan-led Janasena, with two seats.

The substantial aid earmarked for Amaravati is expected to bolster the TDP-led NDA government’s morale in the state, jumpstarting the stalled capital project after a hiatus of five years under the YSRCP government led by Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, which had pushed a three-capital theory. Apart from the Rs 15,000 crore for Amaravati, other promises in the budget such as financial support for the Polavaram irrigation project and the Backward Districts package, are mandated by the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. “Today the Centre promised Rs 15,000 crore financial support in the budget. There is hope that happy days are here again. Had Amaravati been completed, the state would have had a Rs 2 to 3 lakh crore asset,” Naidu said in the assembly during a debate. He further said the state should thank the Centre for categorically assuring that it would complete Polavaram Project “as early as possible”.

On February 20, 2014 in Rajya Sabha, former prime minister Manmohan Singh had pledged special category status (SCS) to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh for five years.

In a statement on a special package for the successor state of Andhra Pradesh, the then PM also promised to facilitate smooth and full Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) under the Polavaram Project.

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Government brings three scheme via EPFO to boost fresh employment

The government on Tuesday announced three schemes to boost employment through the retirement fund body EPFO for new entrants in the organised sector with a total central outlay of Rs 1.07 lakh crore.

In her budget speech in Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “Our government will implement three schemes for ‘Employment Linked Incentive’, as part of the Prime Minister’s package.”

These will be based on enrolment in the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation, and focus on recognition of first-time employees, and support to employees and employers, she said. For the first-timers, she told the House that Scheme-A will provide one-month wage to all persons newly entering the workforce in all formal sectors.

The direct benefit transfer of one-month salary in three instalments to first-time employees, as registered in the EPFO, will be up to Rs 15,000.

The eligibility limit will be a salary of Rs 1 lakh per month. The scheme is expected to benefit 210 lakh youth. The Scheme-B for job creation in manufacturing will incentivize additional employment in the manufacturing sector, linked to the employment of first-time employees.

An incentive will be provided at specified scale directly both to the employee and the employer with respect to their EPFO contribution in the first four years of employment, she stated.

The scheme is expected to benefit 30 lakh youth entering employment, and their employers. Similarly, Scheme-C for support to employers, will cover additional employment in all sectors.

All additional employment within a salary of Rs 1 lakh per month will be counted.

The government will reimburse to employers up to Rs 3,000 per month for two years towards their EPFO contribution for each additional employee. The scheme is expected to incentivize additional employment of 50 lakh persons, she added.

The three schemes will have total central outlay of Rs 1.07 lakh crore (Rs 23,000 crore for Scheme-A, Rs 52,000 crore for Scheme-B and Rs 32,000 crore for Scheme-C).

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FM Sitharaman announces credit guarantee scheme, other measures for MSMEs

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced a credit guarantee scheme for facilitating term loans for MSMEs to purchase machinery and equipment without collateral or third-party guarantee.

In her Budget speech in the Lok Sabha, she said the Budget provides special attention to micro, small & medium enterprises (MSMEs) and manufacturing, particularly labour-intensive units. “We have formulated a package, covering financing, regulatory changes and technology support for MSMEs to help them grow and also compete globally, as mentioned in the interim budget,” she said.

The credit guarantee scheme for MSMEs in manufacturing will operate on the pooling of credit risks of such entities.

"A separately constituted self-financing guarantee fund will provide, to each applicant, guarantee cover up to Rs 100 crore, while the loan amount may be larger," the minister announced in the Budget. The borrower will have to provide an upfront guarantee fee and an annual guarantee fee on the reduced loan balance.

She also announced a new mechanism for facilitating the continuation of bank credit to MSMEs during their stress period.

Sitharaman said that while being in the 'special mention account' (SMA) stage for reasons beyond their control, MSMEs need credit to continue their business and avoid getting into the NPA stage. "Credit availability will be supported through a guarantee from a government-promoted fund," she added.

In another move to help MSMEs, the minister announced a new assessment model for credit to the sector.

She said public sector banks will build their in-house capability to assess MSMEs for credit, instead of relying on external assessment.

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Sale of property of Rs 50 lakh or more involving multiple sellers, buyers to attract TDS

TDS of one per cent will apply on the sale of an immovable property valued at Rs 50 lakh and more, even if there are multiple buyers and sellers involved in the transaction.

A clarification in this regard was provided by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget Speech amid cases of misinterpretation of tax provisions.

The government on Tuesday said that one per cent TDS will be applicable for transfer of immovable property involving multiple sellers or buyers wherein the aggregate consideration is Rs 50 lakh or more. The finance minister mentioned the applicability of Tax Deduction at Source (TDS) in her 2024-25 Budget speech.

In the budget document, the government said that Section 194-IA of the Act provides for the deduction of tax on payment of consideration for transfer of certain immovable property other than agricultural land. 

An amendment will be made in the section to clarify this.

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Rs 6.22 crore allocated for defence spending in Union Budget 2024-25

Amid the continuing border row with China in eastern Ladakh as well as concerns over the evolving security situation in the strategic waterways, India has set aside 6,21,940 crore for defence spending in 2024-25, virtually keeping the same amount allocated in the interim budget. 

The total allocation for defence is 4.79% higher than the outlay made in the financial year 2023-24. A total of Rs 1.72 lakh crore was set aside to the military for capital expenditure that largely includes purchasing new weapons, aircraft, warships and other military hardware.

For 2023-24, the budgetary allocation for capital outlay was Rs 1.63 lakh crore while the revised estimates put the amount at Rs 1.57 lakh crore.

The revenue expenditure for day-to-day operating costs and salaries has been pegged at Rs 2.82 lakh crore while Rs 1,41,205 crore has been set aside for defence pensions, which is 2.17% higher than the allocation made in 2023-24.

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India's farmers have received 'raw deal' in Union Budget: Cong

The Congress claimed on Tuesday that India's farmers have received a "raw deal" in the Union Budget, and said the demand for a legal status for MSP has been met with a "stony silence", as has the demand for a farm loan waiver.

In the Union Budget for 2024-25, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an allocation of Rs 1.52 lakh crore for the agriculture and allied sectors. Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said India's farmers received a "raw deal" in the Union Budget.

"The Agriculture and Allied Budget – which affects a majority of the country's population – is only 3.15% of the total Budget, down from 5.44% in 2019-2020. This is after a year of bad monsoons dragged down agricultural growth from 4.7% in 2022-23 to 1.4% in 2023-24, necessitating greater government support for the sector," he said. The finance minister boasted of an increase in the MSP for crops earlier this year but the prices are still significantly below what the Swaminathan Commission Formula recommended, Ramesh said.

"The demand for legal status for MSP has been met with stony silence – as has the demand for a farm loan waiver," the Congress leader said in a post on 'X'.

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Substantial allocation for Maharashtra in Budget, don't create negative narrative: Fadnavis to Opposition

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday accused the opposition of trying to build a "negative narrative" even though "substantial allocations" are earmarked in the Union Budget for the western state.

Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Fadnavis claimed the Opposition parties had prepared their reaction against the Budget in advance to build a negative narrative against the Central government.

"The Budget includes substantial allocations for Maharashtra. It is advisable for the opposition to thoroughly examine the Budget before reacting," he said. Fadnavis' response came soon after Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray alleged anti-Maharashtra bias in the Budget despite the state being the largest taxpayer.

The senior BJP leader took a dig at Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Maharashtra opposition leader Vijay Wadettiwar who alleged the apprenticeship programme in the Budget is copied from the Congress manifesto.

"If this is the case, then both leaders should welcome the Budget instead of criticising," Fadnavis added. He also took potshots at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his "khatakhat" (being swift) remark which went viral during the Lok Sabha poll campaign. Gandhi had purportedly promised a transfer of Rs 1 lakh in the bank account of one woman from every poor household in the country if the Congress won the elections.

"Where is their (Congress') Khatakhat Khatakhat scheme? They are in power in some states, but we do not see it being implemented in any of those states," Fadnavis added.

He also addressed allegations on Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, led by BJP allies and part of the Modi-led NDA government, receiving more funds than Maharashtra. "Maharashtra will receive Rs 908 crore under MUTP-3 which will strengthen the local railway network in Mumbai. Mumbai Metro will get Rs 1,087 crore, the Mumbai-Delhi corridor Rs 499 crore, MMR green urban transport Rs 150 crore, and Nagpur Metro Rs 683 crore. The budget includes the provisions of Rs 814 crore for Pune Metro and Rs 690 crore for schemes related to the Mula Mutha river," Fadnavis claimed.

He argued that though the BJP is not in power in Himachal Pradesh, the Himalayan state will receive more funds through the Budget.

"Why should anyone be unhappy about other states receiving funds when there is already sufficient allocation for Maharashtra?" Fadnavis asked.

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Khelo India once again gets lion's share in Union Budget for sports

Khelo India, which is the government's flagship project to promote sports at the grassroots level, was once again the biggest beneficiary in the union budget for the sports ministry as it was assigned Rs 900 crore from the overall allocation of Rs 3,442.32 crore on Tuesday.

Kehlo India's share, announced in the budget presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is Rs 20 crore more than the revised allocation of Rs 880 crore during the previous financial year.

With the Olympic cycle set to come to an end in Paris in August this year, and the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games still two years away, the budget for the Sports Ministry has seen only a marginal increase of Rs 45.36 crore from the previous cycle. The budget for the previous cycle was Rs 3,396.96 crore for the previous financial year.

The government has invested heavily in Khelo India over the years as the programme continues to unearth talent from all parts of the country.

While Khelo India's actual allocation in 2022-23 stood at Rs 596.39 crore, it was increased by more than Rs 400 crore, to Rs 1,000 crores, in the 2023-24 budget, before being revised to Rs 880 crore. The government has continued to add programmes ever since the inaugural Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) were held in 2018.

The ministry added Khelo India University Games in 2020, before also launching the Khelo India Winter Games the same year and the Khelo India Para Games in 2023.
Hundreds of Khelo India State Centres of Excellence (KISCE) have been set up across the country, which aim to provide facilities for athletes with potential. Several Khelo India athletes are currently in India's Olympic-bound contingent.

The government's assistance to National Sports Federations (NSFs) has also seen an increase of Rs 15 crore — from Rs 325 crore in 2023-24 to Rs 340 crore in the latest budget.

The budget for Sports Authority of India, which apart from maintaining its stadia across the country also manages the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) to prepare athletes for the global sporting extravaganzas, has also been enhanced from Rs 795.77 crore to Rs 822.60 crore, which is a jump of Rs 26.83 crore. The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL), which does all the testing, have received marginal increase in their budgets.

While NADA's budget has gone up from Rs 21.73 crore last year to Rs 22.30 crore, NDTL has got Rs 22 crore, up from Rs 19.50 last year.

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Budget: UPSC gets over Rs 200 crore for examination, selections; Lokpal gets Rs 33.32 cr for 2024-25

Over Rs 200 crore have been earmarked for expenditure on "examination and selection" of the civil servants by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in the 2024-25 Budget announced on Tuesday.

The Commission conducts the civil services examination annually in three stages — preliminary, main and interview — to select officers of Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), among others. The UPSC has been given Rs 425.71 crore for the ongoing fiscal in the Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Of these, Rs 208.99 crore is for expenditure on salaries and allowances of the chairman and members, besides administrative expenses, among others.

A total of Rs 216.72 crore has been allocated for the "expenditure in connection with the examinations, recruitment tests and selections conducted by the Union Public Service Commission", according to the Budget documents. The Commission was given Rs 426.24 crore during 2023-24.

Anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal has been allocated Rs 33.32 crore for 2024-25. The provision is for establishment and construction-related charged expenditure for the Lokpal.

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has been allocated Rs 51.31 crore for the current financial year. The probity watchdog was given Rs 44.46 crore for 2023-24, which was revised to Rs 47.73 crore for the last fiscal.

The UPSC has been in the spotlight since probationary IAS officer Puja Khedkar's case came to fore.

The Commission had recently lodged a criminal case against Khedkar, a 2023 batch probationary IAS officer, for faking her identity to fraudulently avail attempts in the civil services examination beyond eligibility.

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Maharashtra not mentioned even once in FM's speech: Aaditya alleges bias against state in budget

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray on Tuesday said Maharashtra was not mentioned even once by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Union budget speech, and alleged bias against the state despite being the largest taxpayer.

In a post on X, Thackeray also accused the Centre of looting Maharashtra by installing a "corrupt regime" and then through taxes."

"I can understand the BJP wanting to save its government and giving Bihar and Andhra Pradesh a huge sum of the budget. But what is Maharashtra's fault? That we are the largest taxpayer? What did we get against what we contributed?" "Was Maharashtra mentioned even once in the budget? Why does the BJP hate and insult Maharashtra so much? This isn't the first time, through the entire past decade of BJP's government, we have seen this bias against Maharashtra," Thackeray claimed.

In her budget for 2024-25, Sitharaman announced Rs 15,000 crore for the development of Andhra Pradesh's capital city and also proposed an outlay of Rs 26,000 crore for various road projects in Bihar.

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Budget aimed at making middle class stronger: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday hailed the Union Budget for its sharp focus on youth, backward sections, women and middle class as also on manufacturing and infrastructure sectors.

“This visionary budget will uplift and empower every stratum of our society, paving the way for a brighter future for all,” Modi said in televised remarks on the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Modi said the budget was aimed at making the middle class stronger and will provide a new scale to education and skills development.

“The budget has come up with strong plans to empower the tribal society, Dalits and backward classes. This budget will help in ensuring economic participation of women,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the budget will provide a new path of progress to small traders and MSMES.

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Sitharaman announces cut in customs duty on gold, silver to 6%

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday proposed reduction in basic customs duty on gold and silver to 6 per cent and platinum to 6.4%.

Presenting Budget for 2024-25, she also announced removal of basic customs duty on ferronickel, blister copper, while increasing the same to 15% from 10% on specified telecom equipment.

The reduction in basic customs duty of gold, silver and platinum has been a long pending demand of the gems and jewellery industry. Sitharaman also proposed reduction in basic customs duty on certain brood stocks, shrimps and fish feed to 5%.

On the other hand, she said the government will raise customs duty on ammonium nitrate to 10% and 25% on non-biodegradable plastics. She also said e-commerce export hubs will be set up in PPP (public private partnership) mode to enable MSMEs sell their products.

Traditional artisans will sell products in international markets, she said.

She also proposed expanding the list of exempted capital goods used in manufacturing of solar cells and panels.

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Government to undertake comprehensive review of Income Tax Act: FM

The government on Tuesday announced that it will undertake a comprehensive review of the Income Tax Act to make it easy to read.

Presenting the Union Budget for 2024-25, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also said the government will come out with SoP (standard operating procedure) for TDS defaults and simplify and rationalise compounding of such offences.

She added that two tax exemption regimes for charitable trusts will be merged into one. Also, 58% of corporate tax have come from simplified tax regime in FY23.

More than two-thirds of individuals availed of the new income tax regime, Sitharaman said in the Lok Sabha.

The FM further announced that DPI apps will be developed for credit, e-commerce, education, health, law, MSME service delivery, and urban governance.

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India to prepare climate finance taxonomy: Sitharaman

The government will develop a taxonomy for climate finance to help improve the availability of funds for adapting to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday.

This will support achievement of the country's climate commitments and green transition, she said while presenting the Budget for 2024-25 in the Lok Sabha.

She also said that the government will prepare a roadmap for moving hard-to-abate sectors, such as shipping, aviation, iron and steel and chemicals, from energy efficiency targets to emissions targets.

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Government to hold consultation with states on land reforms: FM

The government will hold consultations with states on land reforms, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday.

Presenting the Budget for 2024-25, Sitharaman said that land records in urban areas would be digitised to help improve the finances of urban bodies in the country.

Further, she said that the government will provide support under the Accelerated Irrigation Programme and other sources for projects with an estimated cost of Rs 11,500 crore. In addition, the Centre will provide assistance to natural disaster-hit states - Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.

The finance minister also said Andhra Pradesh will receive funds to promote industrial development for essential infra like water, power, railways, and roads.

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All he has managed to get is 'special financial support' for Amravati: Congress' dig at Naidu

The Congress on Tuesday took a swipe at TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, saying he quit the NDA in 2018 due to the failure to grant special category status to the state and six years later when the government is reliant on his MPs, all he has managed to get is a "special financial support" for Amravati.

The government on Tuesday announced a series of measures for Andhra Pradesh, including arranging Rs 15,000 crore this fiscal and in future years for the development of the capital city of the state. Reacting to the development, Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said, "In 2018, Chandrababu Naidu garu quit the NDA because of the non-biological PM's failure to grant Andhra Pradesh Special Category Status. Six years after the drama, at a time when the Government is reliant on his MPs for support, all he has managed to get is 'special financial support' for Amravati."

In another post, Ramesh said, "Why has it taken 10 years to announce that what was already committed to in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 will be implemented?"

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Government to launch three employment-linked schemes: FM

The government will launch three employment-linked schemes, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said while presenting the Union Budget for 2024-25 on Tuesday.

These schemes will be based on enrolment in Employees' Provident Fund Organization (EPFO), Sitharaman said in the Lok Sabha.

"Our government will implement three schemes for employment-linked incentives," she said. About scheme A, she said it will provide one month's wage to those entering the workforce in all sectors.

The scheme B, she said, will incentivise additional employment into the manufacturing sector linked to the employment of first-time employees.

"An incentive will be provided at specified scale directly to the employee and employer with respect to the EPFO contribution in the first four years of employment. This scheme is expected to benefit 30 lakh youth... and their employers," the minister said. Sitharaman said the scheme C will cover additional employment in all sectors.

"All additional employment within a salary of Rs 1 lakh per month will be counted," she said, adding that the government will reimburse to employers up to Rs 3,000 per month for two years towards the EFPO contribution to each additional employee.

The scheme is expected to incentivise additional employment of 50 lakh people. The minister also announced that working women hostels will be set up in the country to promote women's participation in the workforce.

She added that the government will provide funds to the private sector, domain experts and others for developing climate-resilient seeds.

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Budget proposes interest subsidy scheme to facilitate loans for urban housing segment

The government on Tuesday proposed a central assistance of Rs 2.2 lakh crore for urban housing over the next five years as well as an interest subsidy scheme to facilitate loans at affordable rates for urban housing works.

The announcements were made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Union Budget 2024-25. She also said the government will put in place measures for an efficient and transparent rental housing market with enhanced availability. Among others, the minister has proposed transit-oriented development plans for large cities having a population of over 30 lakh and a scheme to support the development of 100 weekly haats in five years.

Also, the government will develop digital public infra applications in seven areas, including those related to credit and MSME service delivery.

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Budget provides Rs. 2.66 lakh crore for rural development

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday announced that Rs. 2.66 lakh crore has been allocated for rural development, including rural infrastructure.

She also said that three crore additional houses will be constructed under the PM Awas Yojana in rural and urban areas.

Presenting the Budget for 2024-25 in the Lok Sabha, she said, "This year I have made a provision of Rs. 2.66 lakh crore for rural development, including rural infrastructure".

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Centre to set up 100 branches of India Post Payments Bank in North East

The government on Tuesday announced that it will set up as many as 100 branches of India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) in Northeastern states of the country.

The announcement was made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Union Budget for 2024-25. IPPB has crores of accounts at present and operates through lakhs of branches.

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Govt will provide financial support for loans up to Rs 10 lakh for higher education: FM

Government will provide financial support for loans up to Rs 10 lakh for higher education in domestic institutions, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced while presenting the Budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 on Tuesday.

She also announced three employment schemes.

"Our government will implement three schemes for employment-linked incentives as part of the Prime Minister's package. These will be based on enrollment in the EPFO and focus on recognition of the first time employees and support to employees and employers," said Sitharaman.

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National Cooperation Policy on anvil: FM

The government will bring a National Cooperation Policy for the overall development of the country, Finance Minister Nirmamala Sitharaman said on Tuesday.

Presenting the Budget for 2024-25, she said the Centre will promote digital public infrastructure for agriculture in partnership with states, while Jan Samarth-based Kisan Credit Card will be introduced in five states. Besides, the government will strengthen production, storage and marketing of pulses, while fast-track growth of rural economy and creation of employment opportunities will be the policy goal, she said.

Also, the government will provide finance for shrimp farming and marketing, she added.

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❖ - Syndicated news, primarily from PTI

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