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Budget 2017: After DeMo, govt. announces sops for digital infra & economy

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NEW DELHI: Stating that the budget for 2017-18 was on the agenda to “Transform, Energise and Clean India” in a RAPID (Revenue, Accountability, Probity, Information and Digitisation) way, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced various concessions for pushing ahead digital economy, which indirectly may benefit some segments of the media and entertainment sector.

Under the BharatNet Project, 1, 55,000 km optic fibre cable had been laid in the country. The allocation for BharatNet Project had been increased to Rs 10,000 crore in 2017-18. By the end of 2017-18, high speed broadband connectivity on optical fibre will be available in more than 1, 50,000 gram panchayats (village administrative offices), with wi-fi hot spots and access to digital services at low tariffs. A DigiGaon or digital village initiative will be launched to provide tele-medicine, education and skills through digital technology, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

The allocation for OFC-based network for defence services had also been increased from Rs 2710 crore in the last budget to Rs 3000 crore in 2017-18.

Coupled with push towards digital payments for services, including in the broadcast and cable segments, investments in the internet infrastructure and telecom equipments will likely have cascading benefits for the media sector too, especially those offering video streaming services on phones and other hand-held devises.

The finance minister said a shift to digital payments has huge benefits for the common man. The earlier initiative to promote financial inclusion and the JAM trinity were important precursors to government’s current push for digital transactions.

In a budget, which for the first time since independence was presented on 1 February instead of the last day of the month, Jaitley said an eco-system was being created to make India a global hub for electronics manufacturing. Over 250 investment proposals for electronics manufacturing had been received in the last two years, totalling an investment of Rs 1.26 lakh crore. A number of global leaders and mobile manufacturers have set up production facilities in India. “I have therefore exponentially increased the allocation for incentive schemes like M-SIPS and EDF to Rs 745 crore in 2017-18. This is an all-time high,” he added.

A major announcement by Jaitley was the abolition of the Foreign Investments Promotion Board (FIPB) and further liberalisation of FDI policy for which necessary announcements will be made in due course.

Jaitley said: “Our government has already undertaken substantive reforms in FDI policy in the last two years. More than 90 per cent of the total FDI inflows are now through the automatic route. The FIPB has successfully implemented e-filing and online processing of FDI applications. We have now reached a stage where FIPB can be phased out”.

He said the telecom sector was an important component of Indian infrastructure eco-system. He claimed the recent spectrum auctions have removed spectrum scarcity in the country and this will give a major fillip to mobile broadband and Digital India for the benefit of people living in rural and remote areas.

In a boost to domestic industry, a special additional customs duty of 2 per cent is being levied on Populated Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) for use in the manufacture of mobile phones, subject to actual user condition.

Noting that India is on the cusp of a massive digital revolution, Jaitley said there was evidence of increased digital transactions. The BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app would unleash the power of mobile phones for digital payments and financial inclusion. A total 12.5 million people had adopted the BHIM app so far, Jaitley said, adding that the government will launch two new schemes to promote the usage of BHIM: referral bonus scheme for individuals and a cash back scheme for merchants.

Aadhar Pay, a merchant version of Aadhar Enabled Payment System, was being launched shortly. This will be specifically beneficial for those who do not have debit cards, mobile wallets and mobile phones. A Mission will be set up with a target of 25,000 million crore digital transactions for 2017-18 through UPI, USSD, Aadhar Pay, IMPS and debit cards. Banks have targeted to introduce additional one million new PoS (point of sales) terminals by March 2017 and they will be encouraged to introduce two million Aadhar-based PoS by September 2017, the finance minister said.

Jaitley said the Government will consider and work with various stakeholders for early implementation of the interim recommendations of the Committee of Chief Ministers on digital transactions. The Committee on Digital Payments, constituted by Department of Economic Affairs, had recommended structural reforms in the payment eco system, including amendments to the Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2007.

In a boost for digitisation, the government has removed service tax on e-tickets booked through IRCTC (Indian Railways’ website).

According to a PTI report, after a flat day time trading Sensex zoomed 485.68 pts to close at 28,141.64.

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