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India's Modi offers tax cuts and farm aid in pre-election budget

Slew of measures including new pension aimed at attracting voters

NEW DELHI -- With an eye on crucial votes from distressed farm communities ahead of a general election to take place by May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on Friday unveiled its interim budget, which includes a 750 billion rupee ($10.5 billion) agricultural income support scheme and other measures to boost rural employment and build roads.

"To provide income support to small and marginal farmers ... the government will provide 6,000 rupees annually to be transferred directly to their bank accounts in three equal installments," said Cabinet Minister Piyush Goyal as he presented the interim budget. Goyal, who is in charge of the Finance Ministry while his colleague Arun Jaitley is in the U.S. on medical leave, called agriculture the driving force of the rural economy.

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