For her fifth and last budget presentation under the current government, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today carried the modern ‘Bahi-Khata‘ (ledger) tablet in a traditional pouch made of red cloth with the national emblem adorning it, similar to what she carried last year.
Dressed in a crisp red saree, accompanied by MoS Finance Dr Bhagwat Kishanrao Karad and Pankaj Chaudhary and other officials from her ministry, Sitharaman will meet President Droupadi Murmu before presenting the budget at 11 am today.
Sitharaman made the eyes turn when ditched the long-standing tradition of carrying budget documents in a leather briefcase and went swadeshi with a ‘Bahi-Khata‘ during her first budget presentation in 2019.
The decision to opt for the Bahi-Khata appeared to be a move to dump the colonial practice of carrying a briefcase. At the time, the move was presented as a step towards the shedding of India’s colonial legacy.
The “budget briefcase” used by previous Finance Ministers was a copy of the Gladstone Box, which is used by British finance ministers to carry their documents to parliament when presenting their budgets. “Budget briefcase” symbolised the colonial past of India.
Meanwhile, Bahi-Khata, or a ledger of accounts has been used by Indian households, neighbourhood shops, and small enterprises for ages to manage their accounts.
Sitharaman has continued the practice of carrying her budget documents using the Bahi-Khata since then. The Finance Minister has in the past accepted that the Bahi-Khata was easier to carry than the briefcase and called for India a shed the “British hangover”.
The next move to modernise the budget presentation came in 2022 when Sitharaman replaced her traditional Bahi-Khata with a made-in-India tablet. The move was in tandem with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for “Vocal for Local” and “Digital India”.
The use of the tablet was also necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic as reducing the use of paper was the need of the hour.
Further, the government also launched the “Union Budget Mobile App” last year for making Budget documents easily accessible to policymakers and the general public.