India’s Finance Minister decided to get rid of the traditional British colonial era leather briefcase for her maiden Budget in a gesture marking the new India her party says it stands for.
Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday arrived at Parliament with this year’s Budget documents in a traditional four-fold red cloth ledger or a “bahi-khata”. Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian claimed that the ledger was “Indian tradition”, and said “it symbolises our departure from the slavery of Western thought”.
This is the first budget by the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of prime minister Narendra Modi since he won the election two months ago by a landslide. Mrs Sitharaman’s red ledger generated a lot of attention as it departed from the traditional briefcase – similar to the one used by the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer – which previous finance ministers have brandished.
The “budget case” tradition was started in the 18th century when the Chancellor of the Exchequer carried his papers for the budget in a red suitcase, which was adorned with the Queen’s monogram in gold.
Mr Subramanian said the finance minister did not consider leather products auspicious for big occasions and therefore wanted to avoid it.
“This is considered to be auspicious,” he said.
“The finance minister has worked in the UK and she knows the tradition of our country. We must appreciate her decision.”
Mrs Sitharaman is India’s first female full-time finance minister and was promoted to the post from defence secretary after the election.
The budget contained a raft of measures to rejuvenate the Indian economy after it stalled recently following a growth rate over 7 per cent. They include cuts in corporate tax, support for digital payments for small businesses and relief for home owners.
The annual economic survey, released on Thursday, also suggested other measures, including recognising reliable taxpayers by naming important buildings, monuments or trains after them.
Other sweeteners could include faster boarding at airports and special "diplomatic-type" lanes at immigration counters, the government report compiled by India’s chief economic advisor said.