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New Delhi—India’s government promised billions of dollars to help struggling farmers and boost the rural economy as it unveiled its annual budget on Monday, looking to kick-start growth and bolster its flagging popularity.
India is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy. But two years of drought and a failure to create jobs for a burgeoning young population has left millions of rural residents struggling and led to deadly protests in recent weeks.
The government came to power nearly two years ago promising to transform India’s economic fortunes. But it has been hampered by the global economic slowdown and a failure to push much-needed reforms through parliament.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley acknowledged the challenges as he presented the budget in parliament, but said he had a “vision to transform India”. “We have a desire to provide socio-economic security to every Indian, especially the farmers, the poor and the vulnerable,” he said.
“We have a dream to see a more prosperous India and a vision to transform India. “Jaitley pledged to spend 359 billion rupees ($5.2 billion) on doubling the income of India’s estimated 120 million farmers over the next five years through measures including a crop insurance scheme and better access to markets.
The vast farming sector is suffering after two years of weak monsoon rains, and from high inflation. The budget outlined plans to raise credit available to farmers to nine trillion rupees for 2016-17, and pledged to ensure all the country’s villages have electricity within two years.
The government will increase spending on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which guarantees 100 days of employment on public works each year for any household that requests it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi previously called the scheme a “living monument” to the “failures” of the previous Congress-led government.—AFP

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