Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her first budget speech on Friday said the centre believes that the "country can make great progress with greater women participation" and a panel will be set up to evaluate and suggest measures to encourage their participation in the nation's development.
As she presented the 29th budget in the Lok Sabha, Ms Sitharaman said, "Role of women in the country is distinct. We have record 78 women lawmakers in this house (Lok Sabha)."
"This reinforces our approach of going beyond women-centric policies to women-led initiatives. Our government wishes to encourage and facilitate the role of women," said Ms Sitharaman, who is the second woman after Indira Gandhi to present the Union Budget.
In the budget speech, she suggested a change in women-centric policies to put them in the driving seat.
"The role of women in rural economy is a very sweet story," Ms Sitharaman said. Steps would be taken to encourage women entrepreneurship through Special Help Group programs, she said, adding that "one woman in every special help group will be provided with Rs 1 lakh loan".
"Country's tradition has been "Nari Tu Narayani (oh woman, you are the exposer of consciousness," said the 59-year-old Union Minister, who earlier in the day made departure from another tradition by swapping the iconic briefcase carried by all her predecessors for the traditional Indian bahi khata.
BJP lawmaker and actor-turned-politician Hema Malini said the nation should imbibe the "Nari tu Narayani" philosophy. "Felt great that a woman MP was presenting the Union Budget. 'Nari is Narayani, agar ye humare desh mein log samajh len toh ye jo hinsa ho rahi hai mahilaon ke prati, wo ruk jayegi (If the nation understands that the woman is exposer of consiousness, crimes against women will stop)," she was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.