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Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman carrying the Budget in a ‘bahi-khata’ to Parliament on Friday; Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma presented the first digitised budget in the state on March 12 last year
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman carrying the Budget in a ‘bahi-khata’ to Parliament on Friday; Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma presented the first digitised budget in the state on March 12 last year|File image
ASSAM

Awed at Sitharaman’s bahi-khata budget? Assam FM did it digitally

While Union finance minister’s move to bring Budget to Parliament in ledger was talk of town, state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma presented e-budget on tab last year

Simran Bajaj

Guwahati: Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday created history by becoming India’s first woman full-time finance minister to present the Union budget. She also broke an age-old tradition by carrying the Union budget documents in a traditional bahi-khata (ledger) instead of British-era briefcase.

According to reports, chief economic advisor (CEA) Krishnamurthy Subramanian said that the ledger was “Indian tradition” and implies the country’s departure from the “slavery of Western thought”.

In her maiden Union budget, the FM carried the budget documents in a red silk bag with the national emblem, symbolic to the books of account maintained by traditional Indian businessmen, which is not just crucial to their business but also equally auspicious.

While Sitharaman’s bahi-khata is the talk of town, Assam had set a different example last year. In 2018, state finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarmah presented the state’s first ‘e-budget’ on a tab. The budget was available for all to download from the Google Play store.

Likewise, Andhra Pradesh too had presented an e-budget earlier.

Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma with chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Sarma presented Assam’s first e-budget last year
Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma with chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Sarma presented Assam’s first e-budget last year
Twitter

At a time when digital ideas are pushed, a backtrack to the traditional use of bahi-khata raised a few eyebrows. The symbolic gesture, however, comes along with a major flaw as pointed out on Twitter by political analyst Amitabh Dubey that Sitharam referred to “trillion US$” several times in her budget speech instead of converting the figures to rupees.

For instance, Sitharam said, “$1 trillion dollar economy” instead of Rs 68.53 lakh crore.

Nonetheless, the emblematic move has another drawback as was pointed out by another Twitter user, “Any historian will attest to the flaws of preserving docs by following the 'Indian tradition' of merely tying them up with cloth, like FM did today. It isn't durable & ends up ruining official papers.”