Today, a general discussion on the Union Budget 2020-21 is being held in both Houses of Parliament.  In the budget, the government presented the estimates of the money it expects to spend on various ministries, and how much money will be raised from different sources such as levy of taxes and dividends from public enterprises in 2020-21.  In addition, the budget presented the revised estimates made by the government for the year 2019-20 in comparison to the estimates it had given to Parliament in the previous year’s budget.  The budget also gave an account of how much money the government actually raised and spent in 2018-19.  

What are revised estimates?

Some of the estimates made by the government might change during the course of the year.  For instance, once the year gets underway, some ministries may need more funds than what was actually allocated to them in the budget, or the receipts expected from certain sources might change.  Such deviations from the budget estimates get reflected in the figures released by the government at later stages as part of the subsequent budgets.  Once the year ends, the actual numbers are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), post which they are presented to Parliament with the upcoming budget, i.e. two years after the estimates are made.

For instance, estimates for the year 2019-20 were presented as part of the 2019-20 budget in July 2019.  In the 2020-21 budget (February 2020), the government presented 2019-20’s revised estimates based on the actual receipts and expenditure accounted so far during the year and estimations made for the remaining 2-3 months.

Is there a way to find out the government’s actual receipts or expenditure mid-year?

The actual receipts and expenditure accounts of the central government are maintained by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA), Ministry of Finance on a monthly basis.  On January 31, 2020, the CGA updated the accounts figures for the period April to December 2019.  Thus, we have unaudited actuals for the first nine months of the financial year.

How do the actual figures for the year 2019-20 so far compare with the revised estimates?

Table 1 gives the revised estimates presented by the central government for the year 2019-20 and the monthly account figures maintained by the CGA for the nine-month period April to December 2019.  The difference between these two figures gives us the three-month target that the government will have to meet by March 2020 to reach its revised estimates.    

Till December 2019, the government has spent Rs 21.1 lakh crore, which is 78% of the revised estimates for 2019-20.  While the expenditure has reached 78% of the target, so far, the government has been able to generate only Rs 11.8 lakh crore or 61% of the receipts (excluding borrowings) for the year 2019-20.  This implies that the receipts will have to grow at a rate of 41% in the three-month period January-March 2020 to meet the revised estimates of Rs 19.3 lakh crore.   So far, receipts have grown at a rate of 4%.

Table 1:  Budget at a Glance – Comparison of 2019-20 revised estimates with Apr-Dec 2019 figures (Rs crore)


at a Glance



Nine-month period

Three-month target

Growth rate so far

Growth target



Apr-Dec 2019

Jan-Mar 2020

% change
  (Apr-Dec 2018 to Apr-Dec 2019) 

% change
  (Jan-Mar 2019 to Jan-Mar 2020) 

Revenue Expenditure







Capital Expenditure







Total Expenditure







Revenue Receipts







Capital Receipts







of which Disinvestment







Total Receipts (without borrowings)







Revenue Deficit






Fiscal Deficit







Primary Deficit






Sources:  Union Budget 2020-21; Controller General of Accounts, Ministry of Finance; PRS.

How do the actual tax receipts fare in comparison to the revised estimates of 2019-20?

A lower than estimated growth in nominal GDP has also affected the tax receipts of the government during the year. The 2019-20 budget estimated the nominal GDP to grow at 12% over the previous year, whereas the latest estimates suggest this growth rate to be 7.5% in 2019-20.  The revised estimates for 2019-20 show gross tax receipts of Rs 21.6 lakh crore (includes states’ share).  Till December 2019, tax receipts of Rs 13.8 lakh crore has been collected, which is 64% of the target.  The tax receipts will have to grow at 19% in the three-month period January-March 2020 to meet the target.  Table 2 shows similar comparison for the various taxes and also for the tax receipts devolved to states.  While the budget estimated a growth in receipts from all major taxes, receipts from taxes such as corporation tax (-14%), union excise duties (-2%), and customs (-12%) have declined during the period Apr-Dec 2019.

Table 2:  Tax receipts – Comparison of 2019-20 revised estimates with Apr-Dec 2019 figures (Rs crore)





Nine-month period

Three-month target

Growth rate so far

Growth target



Apr-Dec 2019

Jan-Mar 2020

% change
  (Apr-Dec 2018 to Apr-Dec 2019) 

% change
  (Jan-Mar 2019 to Jan-Mar 2020) 

Gross Tax Revenue







Devolution to States







Net Tax Revenue







Dividend and Profits







Other Non-tax Revenue







Revenue Receipts







Note:  Figures for income tax exclude receipts from the Securities Transaction Tax.

Sources:  Receipts Budget, Union Budget 2019-20; Controller General of Accounts, Ministry of Finance; PRS.

If we look at sources of receipts other than taxes, non-tax revenue during Apr-Dec 2019 is Rs 2.4 lakh crore, i.e. 69% of the estimated Rs 3.5 lakh crore.  Disinvestment receipts till date amounted to Rs 18,100 crore, i.e. 17% of the budget target of Rs 1.05 lakh crore.  Though the investment target has been revised down to Rs 65,000 crore, it implies that Rs 47,000 crore would need to be raised in the next two months.    

How does this impact the borrowings of the government?

When the expenditure planned by the government is more than its receipts, the government finances this gap through borrowings.  This gap is known as fiscal deficit and equals the borrowings required to be made for that year.  Given lower than expected receipts, the government has had to borrow more money than it had planned for.  Borrowings or fiscal deficit of the government, till December 2019, stands at Rs 9.3 lakh crore, which is 22% higher than the revised estimate of Rs 7.7 lakh crore.  Note that with three months still remaining in the financial year, fiscal deficit may further increase, in case receipts are less than expenditure.

When we look at fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP, the 2019-20 budget estimated the fiscal deficit to be at 3.3% of GDP.  This has been revised upward to 3.8% of GDP.  However, till December 2019, fiscal deficit for the year 2019-20 stands at 4.6% of GDP (taking the latest available GDP figures into account, i.e. the First Advance Estimates for 2019-20 released in January 2020).  This increase in fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP is because of two reasons: (i) an increase in borrowings as compared to the budget estimates, and (ii) a decrease in GDP as compared to the estimate made in the budget.  The latter is due to a lower than estimated growth in nominal GDP for the year 2019-20.   The 2019-20 budget estimated the nominal GDP to grow at 12% over the previous year, whereas the latest estimates suggest this growth rate to be 7.5% in 2019-20.

Note that, in addition to the expenditure shown in the budget, the government also spends through extra budgetary resources. These resources are raised by issuing bonds and through loans from the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF).  The revised estimates for 2019-20 show an expenditure of Rs 1,72,699 crore through such extra-budgetary resources. This includes an expenditure of Rs 1,10,000 crore by the Food Corporation of India financed through loans from NSSF. Since funds borrowed for such expenditure remain outside the budget, they do not get factored in the deficit and debt figures.  If borrowings made in the form of extra-budgetary resources are also taken into account, the fiscal deficit estimated for the year 2019-20 would increase from 3.8% of GDP to 4.6% of GDP due to extra-budgetary borrowings of Rs 1,72,699 crore.  This does not account for further slippage if the targeted revenue does not materialise.   

Last week, the Assam Legislative Assembly passed the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021.  The Bill seeks to regulate the slaughter and transportation of cattle and the sale of beef.   It replaces the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, which only provided for restrictions on cattle slaughter.  In this post, we examine the Bill and compare it with other state laws on cattle preservation.  For a detailed analysis of the Bill, see here.

Cattle preservation under the Bill

The Bill prohibits the slaughter of cows of all ages.  Bulls and bullocks, on the other hand, may be slaughtered if they are: (i) over 14 years of age, or (ii) permanently incapacitated due to accidental injury or deformity.  Inter-state and intra-state transport of cattle is allowed only for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes.  This requires a permit from the competent authority (to be appointed by the state government).  Further, the Bill allows the sale of beef and beef products only at certain locations as permitted by the competent authority.  No permission for such sale will be granted in areas that are predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non-beef eating communities, or within a five-kilometre radius of a temple or other Hindu religious institution.

Provisions of the Bill may raise certain issues which we discuss below. 

Undue restriction on cattle transport in the north-eastern region of India

The Bill prohibits the transport of cattle from one state to another (or another country) through Assam, except with a permit that such transport is for agricultural or animal husbandry purposes.  This may lead to difficulties in movement of cattle to the entire north-eastern region of India.  First, the unique geographical location of Assam makes it an unavoidable transit state when moving goods to other north-eastern states.  Second, it is unclear why Assam may disallow transit through it for any purposes other than agriculture or animal husbandry that are allowed in the origin and destination states.  Note that the Madhya Pradesh Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Adhiniyam, 2004 provides for a separate permit called a transit permit for transporting cattle through the state.  Such permit is for the act of transport, without any conditions as to the purpose of transport.

Unrestricted outward transport of cattle to states that regulate slaughter differently from Assam

The Bill restricts the transport of cattle from Assam to any place outside Assam “where slaughter of cattle is not regulated by law”.  This implies that cattle may be transported without any restrictions to places outside Assam where cattle slaughter is regulated by law.  It is unclear whether this seeks to cover any kind of regulation of cattle slaughter, or only regulation that is similar to the regulation under this Bill.  The rationale for restricting inter-state transport may be to pre-empt the possibility of cattle protected under the Bill being taken to other states for slaughter.  If that is the intention, it is not clear why the Bill exempts states with any regulation for cattle slaughter from transport restrictions.  Other states may not have similar restrictions on cattle slaughter as in the Bill.  Note that other states such as Karnataka and Chhattisgarh restrict outgoing cattle transport without making any distinction between states that regulate cattle slaughter and those that do not.

Effective prohibition on sale of beef in Assam 

The Bill prohibits the sale of beef within a five-kilometre radius of a temple (which means an area of about 78.5 square kilometres around a temple).  This threshold may be overly restrictive.  As per the 2011 census, the average town area in Assam is 5.89 square kilometres (sq km) and the average village area is 1.93 sq km.  The three largest towns of Assam by area are: (i) Guwahati (219.1 sq km), (ii) Jorhat (53.5 sq km), and (iii) Dibrugarh (20.8 sq km).  Hence, even if there is only one temple in the middle of a town, no town in Assam – except Guwahati – can have a beef shop within the town area.  Similarly, if a village has even one temple, a beef shop cannot be set up in a large area encompassing several adjoining villages as well.  In this manner, the Bill may end up completely prohibiting sale of beef in the entire state, instead of restricting it to certain places.

Note that certain states such as GujaratRajasthanUttar Pradesh and Haryana completely prohibit the sale or purchase of beef within the state.  However, they also completely prohibit the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks.  This is not the case under the Bill, which only places a complete prohibition on slaughter of cows.  Further, in places such as Delhi, municipal regulations prohibit the sale of meat (including beef) within 150 metres from a temple or other religious place.  This minimum distance requirement does not apply at the time of renewal of license for selling meat if the religious place comes into existence after the grant of such license. 

The prohibition on sale of beef in areas predominantly inhabited by communities identified based on religion or food habits (non-beef eating) may also have an unintended consequence.  With the food typically consumed by a community becoming unavailable or available only in select locations, it may lead to the segregation of different communities into demarcated residential areas.  As per the 2011 census, the population of Assam comprises roughly 61% Hindus, 34% Muslims, and 4% Christians.

Onerous requirement for the accused to pay maintenance cost of seized cattle

Cattle rearing is essentially an economic activity.   Under the Bill, cattle may be seized by a police officer on the basis of suspicion that an offence has been or may be committed.  Seized cattle may be handed over to a care institution, and the cost of its maintenance during trial will be recovered from such persons as prescribed by the state government through rules.  Note that there is no time frame for completing a trial under the Bill.  Thus, if the owner or transporter of seized cattle is made liable to pay its maintenance cost, they may be deprived of their source of livelihood for an indefinite period while at the same time incurring a cost.

Cattle preservation laws in other states

The Directive Principles of State Policy under the Constitution call upon the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves, and other milch and draught cattle.  Currently, more than 20 states have laws restricting the slaughter of cattle (cows, bulls, and bullocks) and buffaloes to various degrees.   Table 1 below shows a comparison of such laws in select states of India.  Notably, north-eastern states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland do not have any law regulating cattle slaughter.