Union Budget 2017: BharatNet, more PoS machines, and digital payments in focus

Jaitley cited the success of Narendra Modi government's BHIM app

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Union Budget 2017 address said that the government was committed towards pushing India towards a digital economy in which there would be greater accountability. He said that while one of the two schemes would incentivise the app for the individual users, the other would provide cash back to the merchants who accept payment from the BHIM app. "AadharPay, a merchant version of Aadhaar-enabled payment system will be launched shortly for those without debit cards and mobile phones", the FM said in his Budget Speech.

Stressing on the importance of digital transactions, the government also announced a cap of Rs 3 lakh on all cash based transactions.

The government also announced two incentives schemes to boost digital payments via BHIM app in India. That apart, he also announced reduction in excise and customs duties for instruments that are imported for facilitating digital transactions like POS card readers or micro ATMs, etc. The launch of the BHIM app has already created opportunities for the digital financial service to be available to all.

He further said that banks have targeted to introduce additional 10 lakh new POS terminals by March 2017.

The announcements are likely to induce people to transact digitally as well as make BHIM and Aadhaar Pay apps worthy rivals to existing mobile wallets Paytm, Mobikwik and Freecharge. They will be encouraged to introduce 20 lakh Aadhar based PoS by September 2017.

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Stating that the government wanted to promote digital economy as an integral part of the government's strategy, the Finance Minister said it would have a transformational impact on the system. India is now on the cusp of a massive digital revolution, he added. "A shift to digital platform has huge benefits to the common man", Jaitley said.

The Budget aims to boost employment by addressing the demand and supply sides.On the demand side, incentives for labour-intensive sectors, legislative reforms to simplify labour laws and easier access to credit for the SME sector will accelerate job creation. Even 70 years after Independence, the country has not been able to evolve a transparent method of funding political parties which is vital to the system of free and fair elections", he said, adding "Political parties continue to receive most of their funds through anonymous donations which are shown in cash.

"Though it remains to be seen if the proposed setting up of Payments Regulation Board under RBI and amendments in the Payments and Settlement Act will bring about fundamental changes to accommodate the fast changing digital payments ecosystem in the country".

Vivek Khandelwal, Vice President, Delta ID, a global supplier of iris recognition technology, welcomes the duty exemptions on iris enabled PoS devices, and says that they are truly excited about the strong emphasis the government has placed on Aadhaar enabled payment initiatives. It will unleash the power of mobile phones for digital payments and financial inclusion.