Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today began her presentation of the union budget by reciting a few lines of an Urdu poem written by the late Manzoor Hashmi. The budget, the first of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second term, has set an ambitious target for the government - to make the Indian economy a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.
"yakeen ho to koi raasta nikalta hai, hawa ki ot bhi le kar charagh jalta hai (if there is belief then a road ahead will open up, sheltered from the winds the lamp will burn brightly)," the finance minister said before reading out the speech.
Ms Sitharaman, who served as the defence minister in the first government led by PM Modi, presents her first budget at a time when India has lost its top spot as the world's fastest-growing major economy.
India's GDP or gross domestic product growth slipped to 5.8 per cent in the March quarter - the slowest pace in 20 quarters. A primary focus in the Budget is widely expected to be on ways to boost economic growth.
"It is now the sixth largest economy. Five years ago it was 11th," the finance Minister said, adding that India will become a $3 trillion economy this year.
Ahead of presenting the budget in parliament, the finance minister did not pose with the iconic briefcase, like her predecessors. In a departure from tradition, she was seen holding a red cloth folder enclosed with a string and emblazoned with the national emblem, which was described by officials as the "bahi khata".
Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian said the Budget briefcase had been replaced by the traditional bahi khata in keeping with Indian tradition.
"It is in Indian tradition. It symbolizes our departure from slavery of western thought. It is not a budget but a 'bahi khata'(ledger)," Mr Subramanian was quoted as telling news agency ANI.
The "budget case" tradition started in the 18th century, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Britain's budget chief was asked to 'open the budget' while presenting his annual statement.
Earlier, Nirmala Sitharaman, India's first full-time finance minister, ditched another tradition. During the customary halwa ceremony before the Budget Session, she untied the red ribbon instead of cutting it; officials said she believed cutting a ribbon is not considered auspicious.
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