Budget 2022 sets the tone for India's 'Amrit Kaal', says FM Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tables Union Budget 2022 amidst heightened expectations of reforms that will help turbocharge India’s economic growth.
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The era of ‘Amrit Kaal’ is here, and it is expected to be futuristic and inclusive, said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her opening remarks on Union Budget 2022 day, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech last year where he said India’s ‘Amrit Kaal’ will be a period of 25 years when the country works towards becoming "Atmanirbhar".

Acknowledging and extending condolences to people who lost loved ones during the COVID-19 Delta wave last year, FM Sitharaman said India was in a "strong position to withstand challenges", especially given the success the vaccination drive has seen.

In the first 30 minutes of her speech, Sitharaman highlighted broader themes the budget would focus on. As widely expected —  partly due to the upcoming elections in the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh —  the finance minister said the budget will be “pro-farmers, youth, women, and ST/SCs”.

Reading the digital budget this year from a Made in India tablet —  a nod to the BJP government’s startup-friendly stance —  Sitharaman said Budget 2022 will be a blueprint for the next 25 years, and emphasised “sabka prayaas” is expected to become a major focus for the government over the next few years for strong growth.

Markets have looked upon the first 60 minutes of the finance minister’s speech favourably, with the SENSEX, NSE and BSE indexes all trending up nearly 1.5 percent.

Nirmala Sitharaman, who has put together the budget for the fourth time since she took over as the country’s finance minister, is the second woman to present the budget after Indira Gandhi. Breaking away from the British-era tradition of carrying a ‘Budget Briefcase’ the way her British and then Indian predecessors used to, Sitharaman started carrying the budget report in a red cloth bag —  a ‘bahi khata’ —  in 2019.

During the pandemic, she got rid of the paper file for safety reasons and carried the budget report digitally, on a tablet made in India.

The digital budget has been hailed as an important signal of the government’s climate-conscious stance, which Sitharaman said in her opening remarks today was one of the tenets of the ‘Amrit Kaal’.

Sitharaman is not the first to break away from budget traditions.

There was a time the budget used to be presented at 5 pm IST so that it would correspond with daytime in London, around 11 am BST, to primarily make it easier for the British Government to follow. The practice was followed up until 1999 when the Indian government decided to shrug the colonial hangover, and, since then, the budget has always been presented at 11 am IST.

The tradition of presenting the budget on February 1 was put in place by late Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley. Earlier, the budget used to be presented on the last day of February so that the new policies could go into effect from the very next day, March 1, the beginning of the new financial year.

While many on Twitter fretted over the absence of a recast of last year when Sitharaman read a few lines from a poem penned by Rabindranath Tagore, most others have lauded the touchstone reforms she has outlined so far.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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