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5 Jul, 2019 17:46

‘Departure from slavery of Western thought’: India’s finance minister ditches ‘colonial’ briefcase

While presenting her maiden budget to parliament, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made an important symbolic gesture, ditching the usual English-style briefcase in favor of a traditional Indian bright-red ledger.
‘Departure from slavery of Western thought’: India’s finance minister ditches ‘colonial’ briefcase

Sitharaman arrived at parliament on Friday with the country’s yearly budget in a four-fold red cloth ledger called a ‘bahi-khata’, in honor of the book-keeping practices of traditional Indian businessmen. While the change in carrying cases may seem minuscule, for many it represents a shift toward self-reliance in Indian society, ongoing since the country officially achieved independence in 1947.

Sitharaman’s chief economic adviser, Krishnamurthy Subramanian, said the ledger is an “Indian tradition,” and “symbolises our departure from the slavery of Western thought.

The now discarded briefcase had been adorned with the queen’s moniker even post-independence, whereas Sitharaman’s ledger sports the national emblem of India.

The symbolic swap caused a lot of stir on social media, with many supporting the gesture, while others mocked her for not going all the way in her rejection of “symbols” of British rule.

The budget proposal is the first of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term in office after sweeping elections in May. It includes several much-needed reforms to India’s troubled economy, including housing measures for the middle class, incentives for new businesses, and resources for infrastructure projects.

The ledger wasn’t the only sign of progress during the presentation of the budget on Friday. Sitharaman is also the country’s first full-time female finance minister, only sharing the position in any regard with Indira Gandhi, who doubled as finance minister while serving as prime minister in the early 1970s.

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