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Budget Board: Glimpse of Union Budget 2021-22

Budget Board: Glimpse of Union Budget 2021-22

The Union Budget ’21 was passed under unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances this year, as the country is still battling against public health and economic damage caused by the pandemic. The budget provides an impetus for economic growth of the country and improved quality of life, while setting aside higher allocations for public healthcare, renewable energy, sanitation and water provision than ever before.

What’s on Priority?

The renewable energy sector got a big push, as the budget provides an additional INR 1000 crore to Solar Energy Corporation of India (facilitating India’s National Solar Mission) and INR 1500 crore to Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited, to boost India’s transition to renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind energy. There is also a disinvestment plan that involves the sale of INR 1.75 crore worth of government energy agencies and assets. This push for increased privatization of energy companies could possibly increase efficiency of energy flow and functioning of organizations.

India aims at generating 175 GW renewable energy by 2022, and this financial push could help us achieve this target. By achieving this renewable energy target, significant employment opportunities could be generated in the manufacturing and sales sector, helping the country on its way to become a $5 trillion economy by 2022.
The government has also expanded the Ujjwala Scheme to provide an additional 1 crore families with clean cooking fuel such as biogas.

In another move aimed at increasing quality of life and health, the government has allocated a sum of INR 2.8 lakh crore towards the project ‘Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban). This would ensure that clean and sanitary water is provided to millions of Indians who are unable to drink safe water in urban areas. Clean water might seem like a simple thing to many in India, but for a large majority it is a rarity, and the lack of it sees millions suffer from waterborne diseases in India every day.

Focus on Healthcare: The Healthcare sector is another area on priority under this budget. The cabinet approved Rs 64,800 crores for the development of healthcare sector over next five years. This amount is more than 15% of what was allocated in the previous budget. While the pandemic has made the deficiencies in our public healthcare sector very apparent for the public, this move can help India build resilience mechanisms and healthcare infrastructure to deal with a scenario of this kind in future. This scheme will further boost the development of healthcare facilities for people in rural areas too, with several hospital projects proposed to provide affordable and quality healthcare to millions of Indians.

Greater Impetus to Swachh Bharat Mission: The budget provides a sum of about INR 1.41 lakh crore for the Swach Bharat Mission 2.0, with a primary focus on urban cleanliness and sanitation. Some departments that have been allocated majority of funds include fecal sludge management, waste segregation, curbing single-plastic use and bio-remediation of dumpsites. This is a massive increase as compared to only about INR 12,000 crores being allocated for the same last fiscal year.
In the wake of a pandemic, there is increased awareness about the importance of healthy sanitation levels in densely populated areas. This move in the right direction would take us a step closer towards a cleaner India.
Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharam says that “The government intends to focus on complete fecal sludge management and wastewater treatment, source segregation of garbage, reduction in single-use plastic, reduction in air pollution (especially waste from construction and demolition) and bio-remediation of dumpsites”.

What’s on the Back Burner?

The reduction in funding for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change seems to give mixed signals about the government’s outlook on holistic environmental conservation and sustainability. The total allocation for this fiscal year is INR 2,869 crore, a reduction from the previous year where it was INR 3100 crore.

Five government institutes of environmental research and conservation have received cuts in funding this year- GB Pant Himalayan Institute of Environment and Development, Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education and the Wildlife Institute of India. The amount allocated this year for these institutions is 305 crore, as compared to 340 crore last year. The government has further reduced funds for the climate action plan by Rs 10 crores to Rs 30 crore, which is something that worries environmental experts.

One such expert, Ms Shuchin Bajaj, founder of the Ujala Cygnus Group of hospitals says that, “Environment is the basic necessity of good health. We may have been looking at health in the COVID-19 scenario but we forget that climate change is one of the biggest health factors affecting the communities in the years to come and also has the potential of creating much bigger disasters than COVID-19”.

However, a big positive from this budget is the allocation of 2142 crores to 42 of India’s most polluted cities, with at least 1 million residents. These funds will be used to tackle India’s air pollution, by developing and researching various adaptation and mitigation techniques to deal with this environmental and public health crisis, that is the fifth biggest killer of Indian citizens annually.

Hopes Pinned on the Budget

While there will always be critics of the budget and questions raised about allocations, the budget certainly provides a sense of hope for India’s mission of sustainable development and attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Moreover, as Indiia recovers from the pandeminc, increased focus on spending on sectors such as clean energy, urban sanitation and public healthcare has renewed hope to overcome the hurdles faced this past year. Timely implementation of proposed projects, investment in clean energy and greater accountability on part of the government should take top priority as the country aims for a sustainable recovery.

About The Author

Tushaar Sharma

Tushaar is currently pursuing Environmental Science with a minor in Sustainability Sciences from Emory University, Georgia, US. He has been intrigued by environmental systems since a young age but it wasn’t until high school that he realized his passion for the field of sustainability.

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