Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today presented the Union Budget 2018 in the Parliament. The budget is largely focused on the uplift of the agricultural sector, along with a major push to healthcare and education sectors in the country. However, while talking about the overall development, Jaitley also touched upon the topic of how Digital India is playing an important role in India’s economy. Here’s a look at the highlights of the Union Budget 2018.
Smart city development
Jaitley in his Budget speech today spoke about the selection of 99 smart cities that will be developed with an outlay of Rs 2.04 lakh crore. Just recently, Hardeep Singh Puri, the Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, announced the name of cities that will be considered for the project. These include Silvassa, Erode, Diu, Bareilly, Itanagar, and Moradabad among others. Smart cities were among Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first initiatives after coming to power. Launched in 2015, the Smart City Mission aims to develop 109 cities that will “provide core infrastructure, a decent quality of life to its citizens, clean and sustainable environment and application of Smart Solutions”.
Wi-Fi and CCTV cameras on all trains
Indian Railways has always been a major attention in the Budget every year. This year the FM said that their main focus will be on safety, maintenance of railway tracks, increase in use of technology and fog safety devices. While safety remains the utmost priority, the government is said to be looking at increasing use of technology for the same. Apart from that, all trains will be provided with Wi-Fi, CCTV and modern facilities for which the government has allocated Rs 148,000 crores. Recent reports suggest that around 600 stations will be provided with the Wi-Fi facility by March 2018. Indian Railways aims to cover all 8,500 stations by March 2019.
Cryptocurrency is illegal
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said all cryptocurrencies, including bitcoins, are illegal and the government will take “measures to eliminate their use”. While presenting the budget, Jaitley also said that cryptocurrency is being used to fund illegitimate transactions and the government “does not recognize it as legal tender or coin”. The government is also said to explore the use of blockchain technology for ushering in the digital economy.
5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots
Government has also to set up five lakh Wi-Fi hotspots that will provide internet to five crore rural citizens in 2018-19. For this, the government has allocated Rs 10,000 crore under the telecom infrastructure budget. Jaitley said that under BharatNet program, 2.50 lakh villages got optical fiber connectivity wherein 1 lakh gram panchayats have been connected with high-speed optic fiber network in the first phase. In November last year, the government had rolled out BharatNet Phase 2 with an aim of 100 percent connectivity by 2020.
Development center to work on 5G technologies
The Finance Minister also announced that the Department of Telecom will set up a development center to work on 5G technologies in partnership with IIT, Chennai. 5G technology is still being standardized globally. In India, Ericsson has partnered Airtel for 5G technology for the telecom giant’s India operations. As part of the partnership with Airtel, Ericsson will work on creating a strategic roadmap for the evolution of the network to the next-gen 5G technology.
Customs duty on mobile phones
Jaitley also announced a hike in customs duty on mobile phones to 20 percent from 15 percent. “Customs duty on import of mobile phone parts will be increased to 20 percent from the existing 15 percent. This will boost jobs in the smartphone sector in India,” Jaitley said. To put it simply, the hike will only affect smartphone brands like Apple, which tends to import components from abroad, in Apple’s case China.
However, if the smartphone components are sourced locally from India no change in price will be noticed. Apart from this, Jaitley also announced that the import duty on chargers, adapters, battery packs, microphone, wired headsets, keypad, antenna, side keys, USB cables, have been increased from 7.5 percent or 10 percent to 15 percent.