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Union Budget 2023-24: Focus on Inclusive Development, Environmental Consciousness, and Tax Reforms

Union Budget 2023-24 was presented by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Indian economy has made a considerable leap from being 10th to 5th in the world. There has been a significant growth in EPFO membership, which has doubled to 27 crores, and digital payments worth 126 lakh crore rupees were made through UPI.

The budget focuses on inclusive development, covering various sectors such as farmers, women, youth, OBCs, divyang, and more, with a special emphasis on the sustained growth of Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, and the North East. The budget also extends financial support to agritech startups and cooperative-based economic models, enabling massive decentralized storage capacity for farmers.

In the education sector, teachers' training will be re-envisioned through creative pedagogy, and the National Book Trust and Children Book Trust will be encouraged to provide non-curricular titles to physical libraries, to build a culture of reading and make up for time lost during COVID-19.

The budget also allocates 15,000 crores for the Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups Development Mission, aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of vulnerable tribal groups through safe housing, clean drinking water, access to education, and more. The budget also provides financial support for poor prisoners who are unable to afford the bail amount.

The outlay for Railways is 2.4 lakh crore, which is 9 times the outlay made in 2013-14. 50 additional airports, velodromes, etc will be made for domestic travel. The budget also focuses on 100 percent de-sludging of sewers to transition from manholes to machine hole mode and scientific management of dry and wet waste, to eliminate manual scavenging.

The budget announces the reduction of more than 39,000 compliances and the decriminalization of 3,400 legal provisions to further trust-based governance. The Jan Vishwas Bill is aimed at amending 42 Central Acts. The budget also proposes the setting up of three Centres for Artificial Intelligence at top institutions and the launch of the National Data Governance Policy to enable access to anonymized data.

A voluntary settlement scheme will be introduced to settle contractual disputes of government agencies where the arbitral award is under challenge, with graded settlement terms depending on the pendency level of the dispute. The Phase III of the court's project will be launched with an outlay of 7,000 crores.

The budget focuses on a movement towards an environmentally conscious lifestyle and aims for net zero carbon emissions by 2070, with a focus on green growth. Amendments to the Banking Regulation Act and the RBI Act are also being considered.

The budget announces the deployment of 100 joint commissioners to reduce the pendency of tax appeals at the commissioner level, and to be selective in taking up cases for scrutiny of returns already received. The rebate for tax exemption has been increased to 7 lakhs, with new tax rates as follows: 0-3 lakhs - NIL, 3-6 lakhs - 5 percent, 6-9 lakhs - 10 percent, 9-12 lakh - 15 percent, 12-15 lakh - 20 percent, and above 15 lakh - 30 percent.

In conclusion, the Union Budget 2023-24 presents a comprehensive and inclusive approach to the growth and development of the country, focusing on various sectors, from agriculture and education to environmental consciousness and governance.

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