Special Correspondent

Interest-free loan of up to Rs. 2.5 crore to institutes

NEW DELHI: The Union Budget sought to give a fillip to the small and medium industries by providing concessions as also unveiling a roadmap to improve the quality of recruits for the industry.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has proposed doubling the service tax exemption limit for small service providers from Rs. 4 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh. Though the revenue loss on this count is Rs. 800 crore, Mr. Chidambaram said it pleased him to incur the loss in the interest of small service providers and consumers.

To provide a better input of skilled manpower to the industry, he has proposed upgrading of nearly 1,400 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) into centres of excellence in specific trades and skills under public private partnership (PPP). State governments, as owners of ITIs, will continue to regulate admission and fees; the new management will be given academic and financial autonomy and the Centre will provide financial assistance by way of seed money.

States' help sought

The Minister also proposed to grant an interest-free loan of up to Rs. 2.5 crore to each ITI for upgrading and revising courses. He sought the cooperation of States in upgrading at least 300 ITIs every year from the next fiscal under the PPP mode. The budget has set aside Rs. 750 crore for the purpose.

He has proposed relief from excise duty in deserving cases, especially the job creating sectors. The exemption limit of small-scale industry has been raised from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 1.5 crore to encourage them to medium scale level.

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