New Delhi | Jagran Business Desk: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said that the government had no plans to impose COVID-19 cess, and that she has no idea "how the media started discussing it", reported news agency PTI. 

Ahead of the announcement of Union Budget 2021-22, reports were rife that the Centre may come up with a COVID-19 cess for high-income earners to cope up with the huge expenses involved in handling the pandemic situation and the incoluation drive. 

Instead, the Finance Ministry announced imposition of Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess, which the government said was aimed at promoting infrastructure in the agriculture sector. The new cess was imposed on a range of products, primarily including petrol, diesel and alcoholic beverages. 

The Centre imposed agri infra cess of Rs 2.5 per litre on petrol and Rs 4 on diesel. However, this wouldn't be a burden on the customer as the cess is being offset by a cut in excise duties.

The finance minister also rejected accusation of 'selling family silver', saying that the government's clear strategy is on divesting for the first time to spend taxpayers' money wisely.

The finance minister added, "Family silver should be strengthened, it should be our takat (strength)... Because you've spread it so thinly, there are many of them (PSUs) that are not able to survive; and the few that can perform do not get the due attention."

She also said the government's aim is to prime them through this policy. "You need them, you need them to scale up so that they meet the aspirations of growing India."

She also said that the the country's aspirations and development required at least 20 SBI-sized institutions. 

Applauding the Union Budget 2021-22, Sitharaman said that it was "a budget of directional change, a change in mindsets, and about faith and trust".  

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta