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Expert Views: India Unveils Budget In Wake Of COVID-19 Slump, Proposes Doubling Healthcare Spending

Here are some reactions from Indian businesses, economists and analysts:

Photo Credit :

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Unveiling an annual budget on Monday aimed at reviving an economy that plunged into deepest recorded slump amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed doubling healthcare spending to 2.2 trillion Indian rupees ($30.20 billion).

The government will launch a new federal health scheme with an outlay of around 641 billion Indian rupees ($8.80 billion) over the next six years, she told parliament kicking off her budget speech.

India, which has the world's second highest coronavirus caseload after the United States, and currently spends about 1% of gross domestic product on health, among the lowest for any major economy.

Here are some reactions from Indian businesses, economists and analysts:

SAKSHI GUPTA, SENIOR ECONOMIST, HDFC BANK, GURUGRAM
"The 2021-22 budget announced some long-awaited reforms and was a big bang in many ways. The government refrained from consolidating the fiscal deficit significantly and focused on supporting growth."

"The set-up of a development finance institution to finance the infrastructure pipeline is a significant step. The other notable step has been the introduction of an asset reconstruction company, which is likely to provide the much-needed support for banks as stressed assets rise due to the pandemic."

RAJOSIK BANERJEE, PARTNER AND HEAD, FINANCIAL RISK MANAGEMENT, KPMG, MUMBAI
To address concerns around asset quality, credit loss and liquidity stress, this budget has been proactive to infuse additional capital of 200 billion rupees to PSU banks for providing continued credit access to wholesale and retail borrowers, and therefore push growth agenda.

ANIRBAN CHAKRABORTY, MANAGING DIRECTOR & CEO, TFCI LTD
“Budget 2022 indeed provides a well chartered framework to boost the travel sector. Higher allocation of ₹2,83,846 lakh crore for health and wellness, which also includes ₹35,000 crore for Covid-19 vaccines promises to ensure fast rollout of mass vaccination and restoring normalcy sooner than expected. This will give a much need boost to the travel & tourism demand in the coming year. Furthermore, greater emphasis on health infrastructure also positions India as the global wellness destination of tomorrow. A greater emphasis on debt financing, coupled with the budget’s reformist tone including measures such as higher disinvestment target, raising of farm income, sops for affordable housing and various other initiatives to give an overall boost to the economy and spurring consumption & investment. These reforms & growth-oriented initiatives are all set to position India as an evolving global tourism hub and drive higher demand for funding propelling the NBFC sector.”

BABITA SHEKHAR, ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER, iE3 INNOVATIONS PVT LIMITED

With a focus on infrastructure spending, aimed at creating jobs and revitalizing the economic growth on the one hand, and investment in Human Capital through increased spending in Healthcare, Education and Infrastructure sectors, this budget gives promise of a recovery from the pandemic slump. Measures like One Nation One Ration Card, and digital platform to collect their information for future national programs, will mitigate the plight of migrant workers, enabling a return to productive work. It is encouraging to see Government of India, especially GST council, leveraging advanced technology like Al and deep analytics to identify tax evaders and increase their collections in the last few months, heralding the era of synergy between economics and technology to chart the pathways for achieving ambitious growth plans.

RUPA REGE NITSURE, GROUP CHIEF ECONOMIST, L&T FINANCIAL HOLDINGS, MUMBAI
A strong capex push of 5.54 trillion rupees ($75.76 billion) is growth positive. This, combined with the enhanced spending on the health sector, will go a long way in supporting economic recovery. However, the actual revenue generation, both via tax and non-tax receipts during FY22 will be instrumental in the management of fiscal situation.

SUJAN HAJRA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, ANAND RATHI SECURITIES, MUMBAI
The indications are that the government is going to do more to promote growth rather than maintaining fiscal discipline. This is a welcome move as it will have a positive impact on growth. Also, we are seeing a lot of measures on conditions of doing business which was required. The intent for reforms is also strong.

RAGHUNANDAN SARAF, FOUNDER & CEO, SARAF FURNITURE
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman by announcing that Modi government will introduce a bill for the development of financial institution has shown a clear path for the growth on financial infrastructure in the Atmanirbhar Bharat. Further, Modi government's announcement of a sharp increase in Capital Expenditure and thus providing Rs 5.54 lakh crores will develop momentum for financial infrastructure domain. Further, the announcement of the development of investor charter should also be welcome as it will protect the hard-earned money of a number of investors.

Shri Sanjiv Puri, Chairman & Managing Director, ITC Limited
It is a visionary and growth-oriented budget that provides further impetus to build India’s competitiveness as also foster inclusive growth. The enhanced capital expenditure, particularly on infrastructure, will create livelihoods and provide an accelerated thrust to the V-shaped recovery trajectory. The heightened spends on agriculture and rural infrastructure development are aligned to the comprehensive policy interventions aimed at creating competitive agri value chains to raise farm incomes. These augur well for the economy and will spur a virtuous consumption-investment-employment cycle.

Shoubhik Dasgupta, Counsel Pioneer Legal 
FDI in insurance being increased to 74% is a big change. The immediate impact will be for the big joint ventures to re-think their strategy in India with their domestic partners. How soon the Insurance Act will be amended to reflect these changes will of course, remain to be seen.

Rajesh Narain Gupta, Managing Partner, SNG & Partners
The proposal by FM Nirmala Sitharaman to exempt dividend payments on Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) from TDS will play a key role in boosting global and domestic investor sentiment in the sector. This will provide a huge push to the real estate and infrastructure sector of the country will help home-buyers to avail real estate price appreciation benefits without the hassles of price fluctuations and help in boosting the creation of income-generating infrastructure like roads, railways, and power transmission lines. With the extension of tax holiday for affordable housing projects for a year, the government has reiterated a steadfast commitment to creating a sustainable social housing model in the country and ensure access to housing for vulnerable sections of the society.

Kaushal Agarwal, Chairman, The Guardians Real Estate Advisory
It’s a pragmatic & forward looking budget, at the same time. The estimated, gradual reduction in the fiscal deficit from 9.5% to under 4.5% by 2024-25 will help boost consumption in the economy. The government’s big bet on infrastructure is bound to pay off in the long-term & will also catapult desired growth for real estate & the economy. The NPA’s of PSU banks have seen an encouraging reduction from 8.96 to 6.8 trillion by end of Fiscal 2020. The setting up of ARC & AMC for banks troubled with bad loans and NPA’s alongside the further recapitalisation of Rs.20,000 crores will help improve the lending capacity of the banking & financial sector. The government’s decision to extend tax holiday for affordable housing projects by another year is a step in the right direction to realise the PM’s dream of ‘Housing For All by 2022’.

Amit Kapur, Joint Managing Partner, J Sagar Associates
The budget speech expectedly has given a strong signal for infrastructure development focusing on actualizing the ambitious national infrastructure pipeline targeting an investment of Rs.111 lakh crores over 5 years. The signal comes from the announced budgetary allocations and decisions (a) central allocation of Rs5.54 lakh crores, (b) state allocations of Rs.2 lakh crores, (c) announcement to tap into budgetary resources of PSUs and wide ranging InVITs monetising assets in highways, power transmission, gas pipelines, dedicated freight corridors, airport. The above announcements are strengthened by announcement of establishing Bad Bank in nature of AMC; a development financial institution with a seed investment of Rs.20,000 crores and a target to be build a lending portfolio of Rs. 5 lakh crores in 3 years; an extensive disinvestment program with target of Rs.1.75 lakh crores; zero coupon bonds that will help arrange the infra financing. The devil lies in the details and the success in reviving the economy would depend on effective structural reforms in infrastructure sectors removing barriers to growth + how the government goes about monetising the land bank and assets held by PSUs.

Vivek Agarwal, Partner, Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare Practice, KPMG in India 
The Government’s focus on restarting economy is clear in its commitment to the time-tested Keynesian principle of spurring infrastructure to create jobs and channelize economy multiplier cycles. With a 5.4 lakh cr budget, there is huge focus on strengthening infrastructure through industrial corridors, highways, BRT, railways, ports and power especially with the highest ever allocation to MORTH.  And this promise comes with attention to detail such as a focus on PPP, special schemes for faster resolution of disputes, and a clear intention to augment infra-financing sources such as Debt-Financing institutional support which has a clear target of creating a lending portfolio of over 5 lakh cr in 3 years; and a thought-through specified Asset Monetisation (especially surplus non-core land with corporations) and Strategic Disinvestment plan.

Parallel to infra impetus; Govt’s focus on Atmanirbharta through Performance-linked incentives, mega textile parks and an enhanced National Infra Pipeline of 7400 projects, is expected to fuel the industrial propulsion that is the clear hallmark of this budget. It’s remarkable that the Govt has also set aside incentives and measures on the private side of public infrastructure through its 3+ lakh cr scheme for discoms and subsidy to Indian shipping companies in global tenders. Overall, the budget has a positive, expansionary outlook towards economy, and builds on the trend towards performance-based incentives started by this Government in 2014, which is again reflected in incentives for capital projects with a positive progress (44000 cr to DEA) and strengthening PLI in manufacturing.

Aarti Harbhajanka, Managing Director & Co-Founder, Primus Partners 
Jal Jeevan Mission Urban is launched for all 4378 statutory towns with a budget outlay of 2.87 lakh crore. Assured availability of drinking water in the household premises will not only improve the health and socioeconomic condition of urban population, but it will also bring down the drudgery of urban women and girls.

Rajosik Banerjee, Partner and Head, Financial Risk Management, KPMG in India
To address concerns around asset quality, credit loss and liquidity stress, this budget has been proactive to infuse additional capital of INR 20,000 Cr to PSU Banks for providing continued credit access to wholesale and retail borrowers, and therefore push growth agenda.

Chintan Patel, Partner and Head, Building Construction and Real Estate, KPMG in India 
The proposed Debt financing for REIT’s and InvIT’s (through a suitable amendment) is expected to provide a major fillip and will attract more investments for the sector.

Nilaya Varma, CEO & Co-Founder, Primus Partners
Overall Focus on Infrastructure together with the proposed asset monetisation agency will help to bring in  foreign funds and create a base for long term economic growth as well  as bring the focus on maintenance of key infrastructure.

“I personally see every budget as a roadmap for long term growth that provides milestones in the near term. In that light, focus of Budget and allocation on infrastructure, leveraging private investments and focus on social sector is most promising. They all reinforce India’s positioning as a leading destination for Investments. Specific announcement on asset monetization, decriminalization of offences and focus on transport will improve India’s competitiveness. Challenges will remain with respect to the capacity of the public sector to implement the intent in a time bound manner.

Shankar Prasad, Founder, Pureplay Skin Sciences - Plum, Phy and BodyLovin'  
Without a doubt, the aftermath of the pandemic is still being endured by a majority of the country. The strength and resilience that most startups have shown through this past year can now be further fortified with the welcome relief shown by the government of India. An extended tax exemption for another year can translate into investment into R&D, employee benefits and an increased ability to grow the clean beauty market.

Sanjay Tiwari, Co-Founder, 21CC Education  
The budget blows new life into skilling by directing funds towards the pain points in the skilling, logistics & training and education space. Financial inclusion through the Standup India initiatives looks to encourage SC/ST and women to join the workforce and that is a welcome initiative. In addition to this, affordable housing and tax exemptions for rental properties of migrant workers will go a long way towards providing housing security to migrant labourers.  Collaboration with international markets of UAE and Japan will ensure job opportunities and will make India compete and contribute on a global scale.

The investment into infrastructure is a testimony of the government's vigour to aid logistics and more importantly, to further open up our economy post the pandemic.

Nitin Potdar, Partner J. Sagar Associates 
“An allocation of 3,002.21 crores to skill development ministry and its various programmes is a welcome step but not sure whether that's enough given the current pandemic and need to create a digital infrastructure for education.  Higher Education Commission, an Umbrella body to regulate education, is a welcome step and hopefully would provide clarity and ease for educational institutions to introduce multiple academic programs.  However, there is a disappointment due to no relief from the burdensome 18% GST on Edtech industry which is doing a massive job of educating our next generation”. 

Maulik Doshi - Senior Executive Director - Transfer Pricing and Transaction Advisory Services - Nexdigm (SKP) 
"Without reading the fine print, some of the changes on the tax side are positive. Reopening of assessment period reduced from 6 years to 3 years provides more certainty. Also the new dispute resolution committee for small taxpayers is a step in the right direction. More importantly no COVID Tax, No Inheritance tax and No new taxes are in a way good news. Thrust on Privatisation and Disinvestments are big bold reforms!" 

Himani Khanna (Co-Founder & Director) & Puja Kapoor (Co-Founder & Director) of Continua Kids 
We would welcome the hike in outlay on Healthcare sector which has been increased by 137%, however, it has increase in proportion to GDP as compared to other countries. India had kept 1.5 % as compared to USA spending 12%, therefore, it should gradually rise with every budget. 

Krishna Kumar Karwa, Managing Director - Emkay Global Financial Services 
"Hats off to the FM for sticking to her promise of a budget that will be remembered for 100 years . A budget with no changes in Direct taxes will certainly be remembered for years to come . Equity market will be enthused with no tinkering in capital gains taxes or STT or any form of Covid tax . The proposals to privatize 2 PSBs and 1 general insurance co is noteworthy  as is increase in FDI limit in Insurance to 74%. The much awaited proposal to set up a DFI should boost capex in the coming years . To summarise the revival  in the economy seen in the last 4-5 months  will be further enhanced with the  various budget proposals. Tax buoyancy ,  successful divestments and quick monetization of operating infrastructure assets remain a key to achieving the fiscal deficit target of 6.8 % for Fy 21-22." 

Rohit Gera, MD, Gera Developments 
The scale of the impact of the pandemic is indicated in the fiscal deficit being at 9.5% of GDP for the year. Given the challenges, the Finance Minister has done a good job with regards to focusing on pushing the growth drivers of the economy. The push of capital expenditure is positive as is the disinvestment as well as monetization of assets to generate revenue for the government. Record GST collections in the last few months as a result of simplification and increased technology led vigilance will continue to help boost revenues for the government.

With regards to the real estate sector, the government has continued on its stated path of doing away with sector specific sops and in light of this, the extension of the interest rate deduction for home buyers as well as extension of tax holiday for affordable projects by one more year is welcome. 

Simplification of processes and rules for the SME segment will help ease the cost and efforts of compliance which is very good for the SME sector.

SUNNY NANDWANI - FOUNDER AND MANAGING PARTNER, ACUVER CONSULTING 
This year's union budget announced an increase in the MSME budget of Rs 15,700 crore, double the previous year's allocation, which will initiate technological interventions in the start-up and MSME space. We welcome this budget as a progressive step to promote entrepreneurship and encourage start-ups in India.

The budget also emphasized on innovation and research development. Besides, a host of substantial announcements were made on the divestment front, including the introduction of IPO of Life Insurance Corporation in 2022. The Government’s support to the Start-up Ecosystem in India continues even this year as the FM proposed One-Person Company without any restriction on paid up limits, which will benefit the start-ups and innovators.

The Minister of Finance also reiterated the Government's focus to further simplify the GST structure. We are hopeful that this will remove the anomalies and smoothen the process for businesses.

KOUNAL GUPTA, FOUNDER & CEO, HENRY HARVIN EDUCATION - AN ONLINE LEARNING PLATFORM
A National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) has been announced which will not only support teaching, learning activities but also extend to educational planning, governance and administrative activities. Additionally, Rs 1,500 crore earmarked for schemes to incentivise digital payments. Joining hands with a proud nation in commending the first-ever digital Budget in the history of India, Henry Harvin Education is committed towards transforming India into a digitally empowered society, offering more than 100 courses.

All in all, this budget is a calibrated approach to boost inclusive growth and development, triggering employment and prosperity, leading the country one step closer towards fulfilling its aspiration of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. At Henry Harvin, we look forward to contributing to the first digital budget in the history of India with 100+ free courses to help 1 million unemployed youth.

Vighnesh Shahane, MD & CEO, Ageas Federal Life
"The announcement by the government in today’s Union Budget 2021 to increase FDI in insurance companies to 74% from 49% is a move in the right direction. Insurance is a capital intensive business and post the pandemic, many Indian partners are not in a position to invest further capital in their companies. Certain companies also require capital infusion to conserve Solvency Margins. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that further penetration of insurance in India is needed and for that capital infusion is required. The FDI hike will give the foreign promoter an opportunity to buy out their cash-strapped Indian partners if required and provide the needed cash infusion."

Tapati Ghose, Partner, Deloitte India
“A further fillip to the NRIs is proposed. Upon return to India a challenge is faced by the NRIs w.r.t. tax on accrued income in foreign retirement accounts in terms of tax credit for foreign taxes – this arises on account of differential tax years. Specific rules for NRI will be notified to removing hardship of double taxation.”

Jyoti Prakash Gadia, Managing Director, Resurgent India Limited 
To Usher, in the Dawn of a new era with a holistic approach in mind, the FM has announced 3 pronged strategies for development of infrastructure. Proposal for the setting of a separate DFI(development financial situation) exclusively for funding infra projects a massive program for monetization of completed/ running projects which will help in creating required resources through the instruments like INVITs, which functions in a manner similar to the mutual funds. In addition over a 34% increase in direct expenditure to infra with new highway projects in select states is a welcome step to take the economy to a new trajectory of growth.

These steps will have a far-reaching positive impact on growth over the midterm, although some immediate expenditure on construction is also called far.

Setting up of a Separate Asset Reconstruction company for dealing with the gigantic problem of NPAs, is a step in the right direction, which will help in better recovery and prompt the banks to boost credit, which is the need of the hour.

Recapitalisation of PSBs with Rs20000 crore is also a welcome step as this will strengthen the banks to inturn raise credit creation capacity.

 Divam Sharma, Co-founder, Green Portfolio, SEBI Regd. Portfolio Management services
1) Setting up of Development Financial Institution for lending over 5 lakh crores over the next 3 years to Infrastructure sector is a welcome step as infra companies have been continually facing challenges in raising bank debt, high leveraged balance sheets and lesser initial interest of investors in InvITs. This will help the incumbents move hand in hand with the higher infra development targets by Government over the coming years.

3) Creation of Government entity sponsored InvIT’s for road assets, power assets, railways assets, airports, oil and gas pipeline, warehouses, sports stadiums and then monetizing them to investors will generate further interest from FPI’s and domestic institutions and will generate capital for the Government to fund the increase in Infra spending. This is a welcome move as the higher infra spend creates a high multiplier impact on the GDP and supports the Governments initiatives to “Make in India” and increasing FDI in manufacturing.

4) Fintech is an important leg for financial inclusion and has also helped India raise a high amount of FDI in recent years. Creation of Fintech hub in GIFT ISFC will help such entities step up their activity, raise more funds, and create more collaborations for growth.

5) Insurance India is one of the fastest-growing Insurance markets. Insurance tech has also generated high investor interest in recent years with companies like policy bazaar, acko, digit raising high amounts of FDI. Incremental foreign capital will enhance the penetration of Insurance in India and will also gradually help in reducing the insurance cost with higher volumes.

Lucky Ahuja - Sr.Manager, Indirect Tax - Nexdigm (SKP)
"Re-phrased- Custom Duty hike on imported Carbon Black from 5% to 7.5% has come to the rescue of domestic Carbon Black Manufacturers which were severely impacted due to cheaper imports/dumping from China and Russia. Imports from these countries were subjected to anti-dumping duty which expired on 31st December 2020, and no further extension was notified. Interesting to note that FinMin had rejected the recommendations of the Director General of Trade Remedies to extend this further for next 5 years. It is a positive and visible move/push towards Atma Nirbhar Bharat/Make in India Initiative. As a major step towards ease of doing business in India and to simplify GST laws/procedures, requirements of filing GST Annual Return in Form GSTR-9 and Reconciliation Statement in GSTR-9C have now been proposed on self-certification basis instead of filing after audit/certification by specified professionals."

Sumit Kumar, Vice President- NETAP, TeamLease 
“The budget is definitely aimed to make India a better place to do business, to work for a common man and to massify quality education. The increased focus and impetus on infrastructure, manufacturing, financial sector and health sector will create employment opportunities which makes the case stronger for skilling ecosystem to ensure productivity at execution. Skilling will step up in automotive sector at both ground level for production and also at the macro level to boost R&D and prepare the workforce for Industrial Revolution 4.0. The outlook to amend the Apprenticeship Act will lead to attractive incentives for small and medium enterprises, especially in the auto ancillary segment and will further boost skilling through apprenticeships along with the OEMs which further creates employment opportunities.

Realignment of National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS) and the allocation of INR 3000 crores will motivate organizations for providing apprenticeship training. Commencing of degree and diploma  apprenticeships in the non-technical stream will improve the employability factor for the youth and prepare a productive workforce the country. 

Additionally setting up of The Higher Education commission will help us understand the ground realities of execution of policies like that National Education Policy among other education reforms, and will help in addressing challenges in execution as well. However the budget’s silence on the regulatory front especially for Skills Universities and relaxation of laws in online education licensing is a bit disappointing as these aspects are very crucial for improving affordability , accessibility and scalability of quality education in India.”

Smita Singh- Partner, Indirect Tax, Customs & Trade Group, Singh & Associates
The Hon’ble Finance Minister vide the Union Budget 2021 has proposed to review more than 400 old customs Duty exemptions this year. There will be an enormous change in Customs Duty rate Structure by mid of this year as a revamped structure will be introduced by October 2021. Such changes are very clearly in line with the underlying theme of Aatmanirbhar Bharat which has seen a considerable push in the COVID stricken economy. This move will undoubtedly settle various interpretational and disputed issues on the Custom duty structure and rationalize it according to the global rate structure.

Further, as a protective measure, there is a hike on import of auto parts, solar equipments, cotton and raw silk to strengthen the domestic production and boost growth in these sectors, renewables and agriculture being one of the critical sectors in Government’s growth plan. On the other hand, Customs Duty on import of Naphtha, Copper, Steel Scraps, etc. has also been rationalized, which was previously 12.5%. These products are major raw materials and inputs used by domestic manufacturers in the chemical and iron and steel industry. Reducing customs duty on its import will reduce the cost of inputs and correction of inverted duty structure for these sectors. Thus, the Government clearly shows a focused step towards strengthening India’s indigenous market by taking protective measures or facilitating low-cost procurement of raw materials for exports to the global market.

Gaurav Mehta, Founder & CEO, Jaipur Watch Company

I think the budget is positive in the sense that it will drive consumption and encourage consumers to spend like they were doing the pre-COVID times. The announcement on rationalization of custom duty on gold, silver and other precious metals is a huge positive for us in the bespoke watch industry. The demand for bespoke gold watches is at all time low, a lower customs duty will help us in reducing our input costs which we can pass on to consumers. Await to hear details on custom duty for imported watches.

Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts
While there is nothing specific on the tourism and hospitality sector in the budget, I feel broader focus on the budget on increasing consumption and infrastructure spend by the government will have a positive impact on the hospitality sector. The government has done the right thing by not introducing any new tax or COVID cess as some had anticipated. We also believe that the amount allocated for COVID vaccination is a positive for our sector as more people get vaccinated it will encourage people to travel.

Prathit Bhobe, CEO&MD, Tata Mutual Fund 
Sometimes we suffer more in our imagination than in reality.   Couldn’t be more true today. In the run up to the budget market was bracing for higher taxes on the back of a pandemic year. The fact that there were no changes in taxes coupled with a boost for growth made it double joy for equity markets.

Benefits for MF industry:

DDT on Reit and INveit is a positive step.  This will further increase attractiveness and will also deepen the category.  The measure to set up a body to buy bonds upto investment grade is a good step to help deepen and market making in Corporate bond market.  It is a very positive step for MFs.

On Equity MFs; Markets usually develop anxiety on tax increase or any double taxation around budget time.  No changes in tax is a big relief for equity markets.

On Debt MFs: Total gross borrowing will be nearly 12 lakh crs and after repayment of nearly 2.8 Lk crs the net borrowing would be 9.2 Lakh crs. This number is much higher than what was envisaged at around 8 lakh crs. It could be a busy year on bond  issuances and will put  upward pressure on bond yields.

On IFSC; Tax exemption for investment division for foreign banks are steps in the right direction to creating an vibrant  ecosystem. 

On AIF; etting up of AIF for disposal of stressed assets is an excellent move.  Funds which are focused in running special situations will benefit from such opportunities. 

Naveen Tahilyani, MD & CEO, Tata AIA Life 
" The FM delivered a bold growth oriented budget with a focus on health and infrastructure, seeking to accelerate inclusive development and to enable private investment for job creation. The Union budget provides a significant thrust to privatization; proposes an increase in FDI in Insurance, setting up of an ARC to deal with stressed assets, setting up a Development Finance Institution(DFI) to fund infrastructure; and delivers a much-needed boost to the MSME sector. With regard to insurance specifically, prima facie, FDI is a positive move for the sector as a whole since it will open up avenues for more capital infusion. This move should also support the industry’s efforts in pushing innovation, increasing penetration and supporting the overall objective of driving protection in India. The last one year has been a tough reminder of the unpredictability of life-changing circumstances and has re-emphasised the need for financial protection for self and family. This will also augment the efforts of the government to boost the economy. However, we do need to wait and see the fine print for more detail to emerge.." 

Rahul Singh, CIO-Equities, Tata Mutual Fund 
“The not-so-subtle shift to a counter cyclical fiscal policy through increased government spending coupled with reforms and greater privatisation thrust could support economic recovery, create earning upgrades in FY22 and thus support India’s premium valuations. Though there is a likelihood of slightly higher interest rates as a result, it can get offset by superior earnings momentum especially if the budget is successful in reviving the investment cycle. Lack of any negatives in terms of persona tax, corporate tax or capital gains is also a sentiment positive.”

Murthy Nagarajan, Head-Fixed Income, Tata Mutual Fund
“The fiscal deficit of 6.8 % of GDP for the next financial year and additional borrowing of Rs 80,000 Crores in the current financial year is clear negative for bond markets. The Nominal GDP growth of 14 % targeted is realistic and the food corporation subsidy being included in the government borrowing  is positive in terms of disclosure and transparency of Budget. It will be upto RBI to aggressively intervene in the bond market to bring down the yields in long dated papers. If RBI does not show its firmness in controlling the bond yields, we may see 10 year yields moving towards the 6.25 %- 6.50 % levels.”

Samir Sathe, Executive Vice President, Wadhwani Advantage at Wadhwani Foundation
The current budget has a thrust on globalising supply chains in manufacturing and increased investment in hard infrastructure, which together is a welcome step for SMEs, albeit indirectly and with a lag, since the SMEs will need to experience on the benefits of such investments only in the latter part of 2021 or 2022. I am hopeful and happy about the changes on the healthcare, which is an important area for India, for the Foundation and for the Advantage program. The key is in its implementation.

Also the act of increasing the threshold limits of the small company definitions is symbolic not fundamentally disruptive. While this will make more companies beneficiaries of the sops and concessions that the government has with a view to protect them, this does not change fundamental competitiveness of the small companies unless they build management capabilities to address and make the best use of the concessions or protection they will enjoy. It is like offering more playground without skilling the players how to win. I was hopeful of deeper, capability building budgetary changes for them.

Kunal Lakhara, VP of Finance and Operations, Pocket Aces
The Union Budget 2021-2022's revised fiscal deficit estimate for FY21 which is pegged at 9.5% of GDP seems promising, and has taken on a realistic approach that is focused on spends which are much needed to revive the economy. The tax holiday given to startups for an additional one year brings relief to enabling the sector to sustain and grow, as we recover from the pandemic. Furthermore, the move to encourage one-person companies without any restrictions is a step in the right direction. This will go a long way in encouraging more people to come forward to set up innovative businesses that solve the challenge of the day, and grow the high-potential startup ecosystem within the country.

Sanjay Jain, Partner, Bharat Innovation Fund and Chief Innovation Officer, CIIE.CO
The budget was a very positive, forward looking budget.  Given the times, it has rightly emphasised spending on Health and Infrastructure development, while bringing in simplifications in various laws to improve the ease of doing business.  While there are specific changes with regards to increasing digital payments, tax benefits to startups,  the broad thrust of the budget is on an equitable, broadbased development of the country.  With specific emphasis on the Gig / Informal work force and the new education policy, this budget sets us up for inclusive development.

Shanti Ekambaram, Group President – Consumer Banking, Kotak Mahindra Bank

Rising to the occasion, taking steps to rebuild the economy and meeting market expectations, Budget FY 2021-2022 focused on pump priming the economy for growth. Some of the key highlights were spends on healthcare and wellness infrastructure; investments in physical infrastructure by way of allocation to roads, highways, railways, ports, urban infrastructure amongst others; strengthening and consolidation of the financial infrastructure, including a fintech hub at GIFT City; introduction of a single securities market code; a corporate bond institutional framework; the creation of an AMC structure for stressed assets; the setting up of Development Finance Institution  for funding infrastructure projects and increase in foreign ownership of Insurance firms with some safeguards.

Adequate focus and allocation of resources was given to agriculture, the rural economy and for employment creation.

Fiscal deficit is pegged at 9.5% of GDP this year and is estimated at 6.8% of GDP in FY’22. Clearly, the Government has prioritised bringing the economy back on track, even if it means higher borrowings by the Government – an additional Rs 80,000 crore this year and gross amount of Rs 12 lakh crore in FY’22. Higher spends and investments is the need of the hour to bring normalcy and growth back to post-pandemic levels, even if it is at the cost of interim fiscal deviation. The path to fiscal consolidation was indicated – i.e., below 4.5% by FY 25-26.

To raise resources, an aggressive disinvestment and privatisation plan was announced including the IPO of LIC and privatisation of two public sector banks. In a major relief to all, there was no announcement of any “Covid” tax, wealth tax or tax on capital gains which was a concern in the run up to the budget.

Vikas Chaturvedi, CEO of Xanadu Realty
By including physical and financial capital and infrastructure amongst the pillars of its ‘Nation-first’ Sankalp, the government has once again underlined its commitment to holistic development across all regions, with affordable housing highlighted as a priority. The tax holiday for affordable housing has been extended for one more year and will be applicable until March 31, 2022. Likewise, the provision to provide a deduction of INR 1.5 lakh on the interest paid on home loans to purchase affordable houses has been extended by another year. The eligibility of erstwhile tax sops available on home loans has also been extended by one more year. These measures will further incentivise homebuying and strengthen consumer purchase sentiment in the real estate sector.

Aswini Sahoo – CIO of Arcil (Asset Reconstruction Company (India) Limited)
This is an excellent budget for a covid hit economy and thanks to respected FM in providing a clear roadmap in Atma Nirbhar growth. While we welcome the idea of managing and aggregating NPLs of banking system, we feel the concept of creating another ARC may be avoided. ARC business in India is a fully developed over last 15 years with strong player like ARCIL which are well governed with distributed shareholding. It might be time and cost saving to use the existing physical and intellectual infrastructure in aggregating and resolving the NPLs. It might be good idea to capitalize existing ARCs with long term capital and guarantees to aggregate the debt of the system and then parcel to risk taking investors. But kudos to FM for taking steps to provide growth booster, which will eventually revive the corporates and reduce the financial stress.”

KE Ranganathan, Managing Director, Roca Parryware 
“Our Hon'ble FM has given the near-perfect 'Vaccine' to the Economy for faster recovery. The 'jab' will be very effective as seen from the huge jump of +35% in Capex spending and the fiscal deficit widening from 6.8% to 9.5. Indeed a bold step to pull the demand side up through these higher allocations for spending.

The 'Jab' will spread to all parts of the Economy body: agriculture getting a big target of 17 lakh Cr funding, urban infrastructure, railways and roadways a major chunk of over 3 lakh Cr allocation, affordable housing with tax breaks, Swacch Bharat with 1.15 lakh allocation, textile getting a big boost etc. On the people side good to see GIG / Platform workers getting protected with better social security benefits. Relief for senior taxpayers from filing returns is in the right direction.  

Overall the health of the Indian economy will re-bound faster with this well thought out vaccine.”

Amit Goyal, CEO India Sotheby’s International Realty 
Budget 2021 lays out a clear roadmap for infrastructure led economic growth, along with the nation’s health and wellbeing.  I congratulate the honourable finance minister on  announcing a big rise in capital expenditure needed to spur GDP and on setting an aggressive fiscal deficit target. No new wealth tax or COVID cess has come as a big relief for everyone.

I am particularly heartened to see the 2021 Union Budget’s  allocations for improving the liveability of India’s cities. Budget outlays for tackling air pollution, Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 , expansion of the metro network in smaller cities, are all welcome announcements. Extension of tax break for  start-ups and affordable housing are also very welcome.  

Ayush Mishra. CEO, Tattvan E-clinics 
Covid-19 made us realise the current state of healthcare system in India and opened up new avenues for segments like telemedicine, mobile operator services, online pharmacy etc. We are welcoming the decision made by the government to make ‘Health and Well Being’ the first pillar of the Union Budget in the Covid era. The Atma Nirbhar Health programme will provide the impetus for the adoption of advanced digital health systems in India and will make our healthcare sector better and stronger than ever before. The increased amount of healthcare investment in the budget will help invest more in new trends coming up in the healthcare sector such as mobile operator services, telemedicine, Machine learning, Data science, etc. which will prepare us to face any emergencies in the future. Not only urban, but rural parts of the country also faced a lot of difficulties during the period of pandemic which highlighted the availability of less medical facilities in these areas. The budget will also boost the morale of startups and private players operating in the telemedicine segment to increase the current coverage of the locations including tier-2 and tier-3 cities for providing advanced healthcare facilities in these areas.

Shachindra Nath, Executive Chairman & Managing Director, U GRO Capital 
Broadly evaluating, the Union Budget 2021 is a significant attempt by the government, to accept a higher fiscal deficit and enhance expenditure towards economic revival. It is appreciative of the government to put a special emphasis towards providing relief to the tax payers and reducing the burden posed by COVID-19. One of the key highlights of the budget is setting-up of the development finance institution (DFI) towards infrastructure financing and institutional framework to purchase corporate bond, which would solve the issue of liquidity for the infrastructure sector and corporate bond market. Also, with the path-breaking initiative of instituting Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC) and asset management company (AMC) for NPA consolidation, banks have been allowed to streamline their focus on the much needed growth.

The government has reduced the threshold for NBFCs to initiate recovery under the SARFAESI Act, 2002. This is an effective step towards ushering credit discipline and in the long-term will increase the penetration of credit to small businesses. The government has also doubled its allocation towards MSMEs, which would greatly support their revival and the eventual growth. Holistically, the Union Budget 2021 is an encouraging event, yet we optimistically look forward to a distinctive support for NBFCs, with a framework to provide them sufficient liquidity, while also furthering the credit guarantee scheme support to the MSMEs.

Roopam Asthana, CEO & Whole-time Director, Liberty General Insurance 
“Increase in the FDI limits in the insurance sector from 49% to 74 % is a welcome step by the honourable Finance Minister, and has been announced at a time when it is needed the most. This move will help make the insurance companies stronger and enable them to further expand their businesses, supplement their growing business needs, and deepen the market with new products and technology. Moreover, it would foster the growth of the insurance industry and take it to the next level by bringing in global products, practices, and sales strategies to India’s insurance market. Insurance is a very efficient form of protection for general public and it is essential that it reaches everyone in India from big cities to small villages, and this move will facilitate the inflow of capital that would be required to accomplish this.” 

Pradeep Misra, CMD, Rudrabhishek Enterprises Limited
As it was expected and much needed, there is massive emphasis on infrastructure in the union budget. The number of projects under NIP (National Infrastructure Pipeline) has been extended to 7400, which will help in generating immediate employment. Focus on the Affordable Housing section continues with the extension of eligibility to avail benefits for another year. 

Plan to set up ‘Development Financial Institution’ with fund infusion of Rs. 20,000 crores for financing infrastructure & development projects will further help in mobilizing the long term capital, especially through debt instruments. This should be vital in pulling out the projects that are stuck or slowed down. The aim to complete 11,000 Km of National Highways; seven Port projects worth Rs 2,000 crore in PPP mode; extending metro in Tier 2 cities and peripheral areas of Tier 1 cities etc. will collectively create a vibrant economic conditions of growth. As mentioned by the Hon’ble Finance Minister, fund infusion in the infrastructure sector will have to be accentuated by multiple measures, including monetization of assets, creating institutional structure as well as raising the union & state governments’ budgetary allocations.  Overall, the budget has set the tone of intense infrastructure development in FY 21-22 and following years. 

Ashish Bhatia, Founder and MD, India Accelerator 
“It’s great to see the Union Government’s focus on startups after such a hard year as all the businesses saw a steep phase during this pandemic but still most of the business coped up or are copping up. As a businessman, I welcome the Government’s initiative for the companies act,2013 for small companies by increasing their threshold for capitalization to not exceeding Rs 50 lakhs to not exceeding Rs 2cr and turnover not exceeding 2cr to not exceeding Rs. 20 cr. This is a good initiative for all the startups who are still fighting to survive during this pandemic. She also proposed to incentivize the incorporation of companies through a single person which will lead to the ease of doing business. Both the initiatives will lead to more entrepreneurs and startups in the country. Overall a balanced budget with a key focus in making India.  

Vivek Adhia, India Country Director, Institute for Sustainable Communities
'India’s Union Budget 2021 lays out clear directions for green, rapid and resilient recovery with significant boost in infrastructure investments and reform measures. Continued outlay on the clean air program coupled with boost in sustainable transport measures and vehicle scrappage policy in place, will help improve urban air quality across most regions. With most cities staring at day-zero and increased water risks – the urban Jal Jeevan Mission, aimed at universal access for all – hopefully will bring in the right momentum on clean water and sanitation. The budget continues to address the challenge of power reforms, opening up consumer choices and bringing in economic stability of distribution companies. Continued clean energy boost, national apprenticeship programs, MSME support measures and production-linked incentives for manufacturing are additional pillars, advancing the country’s aspirations towards self-reliant growth. 

Romit Sen, Associate Director – Water and Agriculture Program, Institute for Sustainable Communities
"The focus on enhancing household access to water in urban areas is a welcome move. However, the budget did not have any mention of addressing water quality problems. With a large number of habitations affected by water quality one cannot realize the mission of clean and safe drinking water for all. Similarly, while the focus on solid and liquid waste management is encouraging the budget lacks proposals and outline for enhancing water supply through source strengthening, wastewater recycling. The high demand for rural jobs under MGNREGA in the year 2020 owing to the reverse migration was an opportunity for the government to strengthen ecological restoration and natural resource conservation activities in rural areas under MGNREGA." 

Prashant Kumar, CEO, Zingbus:
·  Companies which do 95% transactions digitally and have turnover of 10 Crores will get exemption from audit. This is massively beneficial for digital first small companies and startups.

· The Tax holiday for startups and capital gain exemption for startup investors increased by a year to 31st March would allow the sector from the aftershocks of pandemic sooner

· Allowing NRIs to incorporate OPC is going to invite quality entrepreneurs and investors in the ecosystem

·  By increasing max threshold paid up capital from 50L to 2Cr and max threshold turnover from 2 Cr to 20 Cr, more than 2L new companies will come under the definition of small companies which would entail lower burden of of violation penalties and filing requirements  

 Shanai Ghosh, Executive Director & CEO, Edelweiss General Insurance 
“ The announcement by the FM to increase FDI in Insurance, is a positive news and a welcome move for this capital intensive sector. It will help increase avenues to bring in capital inflows in order to realise the full potential of Insurance in the country. This move will help strengthen the sector and also help further penetration of insurance in the country, which still is far behind the world average.”

Rohinton Dastur- Director Medical, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s healthcare sector that has been badly affected, required some major boost. Amidst the huge expectations on that front, we must say that the government has delivered positively. The Atmanirbhar Health Yojana that was unveiled will have a financial allocation of ₹64,180 crore over six years as announced by the FM. This is a momentous achievement for preventive healthcare.

There have also been announcements for the setting up of wellness centres across rural as well as urban parts of the country which is a welcome move. Another very important requirement that the pandemic brought to the fore was the provision for greater investment for preparedness against other health emergencies that may arise in the future, by strengthening diagnostic testing capacities and contact tracing mechanisms. The government has lived up to this expectation where integrated public health laboratories have been announced in various districts and public health units in 11 states.

Overall, the allotment of ₹2.35 lac crore is a welcome move especially considering the adverse circumstances caused by the pandemic. Of this, ₹35,000 crore has been earmarked for the COVID-19 vaccine, which is of course the need of the hour. Currently, the primary focus has to be on fighting the pandemic by making the vaccine available to all and then building the right infrastructure towards good health and to empower healthcare professionals.

One just wishes that it hadn’t taken a pandemic to create this awareness about the importance of the healthcare sector. Had it been realised much before; we would have had a stronger healthcare infrastructure to deal with the pandemic. However, Budget 2021 has definitely brought some positive news for the sector.

Karthik Srinivasan - Senior Group Vice President, ICRA Limited Ratings 
Budgeted recapitalisation of PSBs largely in-line with our estimates for near term growth estimates assuming banks are able to reissue bulk of the AT1s which have call option due over the next 12 months. The proposal to divest two PSBs is expected to increase private sector participation and aid in improving credit delivery with better asset quality by providing much needed capital to public banks.

Also, the proposed ARC/AMC is expected to result in faster and a better resolution of stressed assets of lenders. Apart from improving reported financials, this will also free up the bandwidth of management to focus on core lending operations.

Gauri Agarwal, Founder of Seeds of Innocence and Fertility expert
 At the outset, I congratulate the government of India for undertaking this arduous task in these unprecedentedly challenging times. The emphasis on clean air, safe drinking water and nutrition are critical factors for better maternal and child health and will go a long way in reducing both maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate (IMR). This will improve the quality of life in the lowest strata of our society. Besides, the announced roll out of pneumococcal vaccine outside the existing 5 states to the entire country will also play a critical role in helping India contain infectious diseases as well as complement the COVID-19 vaccines in the process of building immunity as well as herd immunity. 

Ashok Patel, Founder & CEO, Max Ventilator 
Keeping in mind the learning curve from Covid-19, the government has done well to finally take the bull by its horns. Raising the healthcare budget by 137% at more than 2.23 lakh crore signals that resolve of the government and was a much-needed measure. More importantly, the government’s inclusion of preventive medicine, curative medicine and well being implies that it is taking a comprehensive view of health and not adopting an ad-hoc policy stance. The allocation of 64,000 crore plus funds for Atma Nirbhar Health Yojana is also welcome signifying the intent and the will to make the country self-reliant for health.  The expansion of PLI scheme with an allocation of 1.97 lakh crore for the next five years will also impart a boost to the medical device manufacturing in the country. 

Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director, ENTOD International Pharmaceutical
We welcome the much-needed increase in budget outlay for health this year. The Finance Minister has announced an increase of 137% in health allocation as compared to last year. This is critical at a time when the pandemic has had a devastating impact on healthcare and has necessitated an efficient roll out of a mass vaccination programme.

The COVID 19 pandemic has not only jolted the goals of NCD prevention and gave a setback to other disease prevention and screening programmes, it has also had a massively negative impact on incomes and resources of people. In a recessionary phase when millions of people have lost jobs and livelihoods, it is particularly important to strengthen public healthcare services. In this line, the announcement to set aside Rs 64,180 crore to be invested over 6 years to improve primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in addition to National Health Mission is highly welcome. In this context, we would have been happier to hear an announcement on extension of the government’s flagship health insurance PMJAY to more sections of the population. We hope in the coming years, we will see a move towards this goal.

The government through its proposed healthcare funds for 2021 should give emphasis on preventative health measures such as screening programmes for heart disease, diabetes & glaucoma as well as other national health awareness campaigns. Particular importance should be given to regular comprehensive screening of children’s health in schools and government organised health fairs.

Jalak Rawal, Partner and COO, Monk Entertainment 
"Fair budget after a bad year, which is opening doors for the startup industry to grow faster, supporting sun rise sectors like solar and drones. Making honest income tax payers life easier with reduced compliance giving a healing touch. Some good capital raising methods like FDI in insurance raised from 49% to 74% with precautions. Launching IPO for LIC. Support for MSME by increasing custom duty. Feel good factor for senior citizens post 75 years as they receive an exemption from filing returns. Finally, some digital adoption for the first digital census in history receiving an allocation of 3700 cr this year. Overall budget seemed standard and well thought out. We should be able to see more streamlined processes, benefits to the end citizen and development around the nation in the long run with major infrastructure and metro projects. This budget seems like a budding plant, the fruits are to be cherished over years with the right sunlight and watering.".

Niyati Mavinkurve of Abhi and Niyu, Digital content creator 
 "The Union Budget 2021-22 is a heavily capital intensive budget. Capital expenses are those that create lasting assets for future generations, like building roads, expanding railways etc. There was rightly an increased focus on healthcare, in aiding primary, secondary, and tertiary health centres across the country. The more interesting suggestions are in aiding State Governments to monetize their assets, creating a Bad Bank for stressed assets and the focus on water treatment and fecal sludge management. The focus on piped water and clean air are essential for a country battered by pollution and starved of water. It will be interesting to see how reforms in the power sector play out in the future. We also hope the textile park announcement helps clusters develop their art and find new markets. All in all, this budget aims at different sectors to provide attention to the economy. One hopes the Government backs this up with strong policy attention throughout the year so that they strengthen the economy structurally. We also hope the Government can see through their disinvestment target so that losses from sick Government companies do not burden the exchequer further. I hope additional attention and funding is given to sectors like tourism which generate a lot of employment directly and indirectly since that will take time to recover."

Vinay Jain, Founder and CEO, Grafdoer
The Union Budget FY 21-22 has brought a ray of hope for the general public as the government has extended eligibility of tax SOP on home loan, which is beneficial for the sanitary-ware industry, and will also provide tax exemption for affordable rental housing projects. Moreover, the new custom duty structure that has been introduced on the steel products is somewhat a relief as it has reduced duties on copper from 5% to 2.5%, it has also cut duty on copper scrap from 5% to 2.5%, and exempted duty on steel scrap for a specified period. The industry has seen a hike in the products comprising of metal constituents but this will now, somehow help the manufacturers to see stability in the pricing of the products and is a matter of relief for the people.

Ashwani Rawat & Amarsh Chaturvedi, Co-Founder & Director, Transerve
“The Union Budget 2021 can be rightly considered as path breaking as it was the ground-level of the country and not just sector specific. The budget laid much-needed importance to the country's healthcare system considering the recent and ongoing Covid pandemic by allocating Rs 64,180 crore for Atmanirbhar Swasthya Yojana, thus strengthening healthcare in India. We also appreciate an outlay of Rs 1.41 lakh for Urban Swachh Bharat 2.0 Mission, Rs 2.87 lakh crore for Jal Jeevan Mission Urban, Rs 1.41 lakh crore for Urban Clean India Mission and announcement of 5 new Smart Cities under PPP mode in collaboration with states, to reinforce the Urban India. Technology being the core suite to build on a successful business ecosystem, we welcome allocation of Rs 8,000 crore for National Mission on Quantum Computing & technology and building data centre parks. The honourable Finance Minister has left no stones unturned to give a boost to new age technology like AI, ML and Data Analytics across sectors with the launch of MCA Version 3.0 which shall target simplification of E-Scrutiny, E-Adjudication and Compliance management.”

Sanjiv Marwah, Director, JK Business School
“The budget presented by the honorable Finance Minister tried to address many facets of the educational sector. The overall allocation of Rs. 93224 Cr for the education sector is a welcoming announcement. The budget emphasized the recent trend of tinkering at the edges of the problems that confront Indian Education System. Madam Finance Minister announced strengthening of more than 15,000 schools, starting 750 Eklavya schools and 100 new Sainik schools which will have a great impact on the school education. On the other hand, Legislation of the Higher Education Commission of India will resolve the various challenges faced by higher education in our country. The budget consists of the apt strategies which will help in speedy implementation of National Education Policy (NEP).

Another point which deserves huge appreciation in the budget is the development of the National Research Foundation, which outlayed Rs.50,000 Cr over 5 years. It will strengthen the overall research ecosystem of the country and help India emerge as the R&D epicentre of the world.”

Shaan Sarin Founder and CEO TEO
“Needless to state, pandemic impact on every sector. This Union budget 2021 should look into the need of an hour i.e., GST relief. As Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the budget is going to boost Indian economy. Being one of the largest industry sector members we are looking forward towards spurt in our sector. After pandemic restaurateur’s industry and lease in certain areas of management of restaurants and bars. Mr. Shaan adds, upgrading in the regulations is required as time passes so that recovery can be done in this sector. States to get 41 per cent share of taxes as per the 15th Finance Commission recommendation. The government has accepted the recommendation. Yes, on exports seems to be fruitful for this financial year.”

Ricky Sethi Co-founder, Talli Station
“We are expecting tha


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