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From Bahi Khata To Tablet: How FM Sitharaman’s Budget Presentation Changed Over Years

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union Government's push towards a "Digital India", bahi khata was replaced with a tablet in 2021. 

Published: February 1, 2022 12:13 AM IST

By News Desk | Edited by Sanstuti Nath

From Bahi Khata To Tablet: How FM Sitharaman's Budget Presentation Changed Over Years

Union Budget 2022: With Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman set to present Union Budget on the Parliament on Tuesday (February 1), all eyes will be glued to the screen. From businessmen to the working-class, everyone is waiting for relief measures and expecting her to bail out the country’s economy that has taken a fresh knock due to the third wave of the Covid pandemic. On a lighter vein, it also remains to be seen if she would carry her statement bahi-khata which she used for her maiden budget presentation or the modern tablet she adopted last year to present the first digital “paperless” budget.

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The idiosyncrasies of Budget presentation have always been in the talk of the town. When Sitharaman presented her maiden budget in 2019, she drew the nation’s attention as she Sitharaman broke away from long-standing “colonial-era” traditions of carrying budget documents in a briefcase and opted for traditional bahi khata, which is a kind of ledger wrapped in a red coloured cloth.

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The word ‘budget’ has its origin in the French word Bougette, which means leather briefcase. Traditionally, budget documents — which primarily include papers related to revenue receipt and expenditure as well as the speech of the finance minister — were carried in a brown briefcase, a legacy passed on by the British.

However, traditional Indian businessmen used bahi-khata to maintain their books of account.

Commenting on the shift from a briefcase to bahi-khata during the 89th Union Budget, Sitharaman, later that year, had said that the Modi government is not a “suitcase-carrying government”.

In a veiled attack on Congress, she connected her idea of carrying budget documents wrapped in a red cloth instead of a briefcase with alleged corruption in the previous UPA government at the Centre. “For Budget 2019, I did not carry a suitcase. We are not a suitcase-carrying government. A suitcase also denotes something else: suitcase-taking, suitcase-giving. Modi Ji’s government is not a suitcase government,” she had said at the International Business Conference of Nagarathar in July 2019.

For her next Budget in 2020, Sithraman continued the tradition. However, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union Government’s push towards a “Digital India”, bahi khata was replaced with a tablet in 2021.

The Finance Minister was seen carrying a tablet kept inside a red coloured cover with a golden coloured national emblem embossed on it. At the time, media reports claimed it to be a ‘made in India’ tablet. Last year, the Union Budget was delivered in paperless form for the first time.

In 2021, the Finance Ministry also launched the “Union Budget Mobile App” for hassle-free access of Budget documents by Members of Parliament (MPs) and the general public using the simplest form of digital convenience. The App facilitates complete access to 14 Union Budget documents, including the Annual Financial Statement (commonly known as Budget), Demand for Grants (DG), and Finance Bill as prescribed by the Constitution.

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Published Date: February 1, 2022 12:13 AM IST