Arun Jaitley
Indian Devence Minister Arun JaitleyReuters

The Union Budget that was presented in the Parliament by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 10 July crossed its first stage when it was approved by the Lok Sabha on Friday.

The Budget, the first of the Modi government that was elected to power in May, had brought in marginal tax relief by increasing tax exemption limits and had opened sectors such as Defence and Insurance to greater foreign direct investment (FDI).

With the first stage of the Budget exercise completed, the Lok Sabha will now debate and pass the Finance Bill, which is expected before the end of this month.

During the debate in the Lower House, Jaitley said his government would work towards bringing about "civility" in the tax regime, maintain low taxes and boost infrastructure and housing, while also providing more for social sector programmes, the Press Trust of India reported.

He also took up allegations that the Budget was anti-poor, stating that being 'pro-business' was not contradictory to being pro-poor. The Budget was highly criticized by the Opposition as only catering to businessmen and investors and leaving out the poor.

"It was necessary for generating more revenues and increasing spending that would benefit the poor and marginalised sections of the society," he said. 

During the debate, the Finance Minister also announced a ₹ 2,000 crore special fund under NABARD for food parks, and ₹ 50 crore for setting up of drug de-addiction centres in Punjab.

On Friday, Jaitley also answered questions in the Lok Sabha about the issue of black money and irregularities in providing tax concessions.

"The Government is not contemplating a proposal to legalise black money. Drive against tax evasion is an on-going process. Appropriate action under the direct tax laws including assessment of income, raising tax demand, levy of penalty and launching of prosecution in appropriate cases is taken whenever tax evasion is detected," he said in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.

He also announced a Turnaround Plan to revive Air India with an initial capital of ₹6,750 crore.

In his capacity as the Defence Minister, he said that adequate budgetary allocations of ₹ 75,148 crore have been made for the modernisation of defence forces.

On the question of Chinese incursions, he said, "There is no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China. There are areas along the border where India and China have differing perception of LAC. Due to both sides undertaking patrolling upto their respective perception of the LAC, transgressions do occur." 

On the issue of interest rates, he said, ""Interest rates have gone up. Hopefully, if inflation moderates, they will come down," Jaitley told parliament."