New Delhi: The Union Budget presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday was historic in more than one way, and the mood in Lok Sabha was upbeat and enthusiastic. At the end of her budget speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked up to Sitharaman and congratulated her, along with many other Cabinet colleagues.
Sitharaman is the first full-time woman finance minister, a point which was applauded by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla in his concluding remarks. Friday’s budget was also the first ever by a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, which has been voted back to power at the Centre.
Sitharaman’s speech drew loudest applause from lawmakers on announcements in the budget related to women, including expanding the interest subvention scheme for women self help group (SHG) to all districts and allowing loans of up to ₹1 lakh for one woman in each self help groups (SHGs) across the country.
“In India’s growth story, particularly in the rural economy or 'grameen arth vyavastha', the role of women is a very sweet story. This government wishes to encourage and facilitate this role of women," she said in her speech.
“There is no segment of human life where the contribution of women is not significant. This government firmly believes that the socio-economic transformation that is taking place particularly in the last decade, Indian women’s role and leadership is distinct," she added.
Her examples on the recent national elections showing record turnout of women voters on a par with men and a record 78 women MPs in Lok Sabha, drew thunderous applause from parliamentarians.
Apart from this, the finance minister also drew appreciation from members for all the references she made in Hindi, most of which alluded to issues of rural India and farmers. Her rendition of Tamil couplets was appreciated by the House, particularly by senior leaders Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) such as Dayanidhi Maran and A. Raja who thumped their desks.
Sitharaman’s budget speech saw full attendance not just on the floor of the House but also from the visitors gallery. While the media gallery was packed with provisions of extra row of chairs than usual, the visitors gallery, too, was packed with many youngsters in attendance.
The visitors gallery also saw members of Sitharaman’s family being present. More than a dozen Rajya Sabha members across the political spectrum were also present in the visitors gallery to witness the proceedings.
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