N Sitharaman’s Budget Speech Faux Pas

    New Delhi:

    Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a rather “political” mistake — using the word in place of “polluting” — as she delivered her Budget 2023-24 speech in the Lok Sabha today, triggering laughter among ruling BJP-led NDA members. The Sansad TV telecast did not show how the Opposition reacted.

    “Vehicle replacement is an important ongoing policy,” she said, “Replacing the old political… oh, sorry…,” and paused. Laughter ensued.

    “I know!,” she said with a smile, corrected herself, and stressed the word “polluting” in place of “poitical” multiple times as she continued on, speaking about replacing old vehicles as part of an environment conservation policy.

    “Replacing old polluting vehicles is an important part of greening our economy,” she said.

    “In furtherance of Vehicle Scrapping Policy mentioned mentioned in the Budget 2021-22… states will also be supported,” she added.

    The budget turned a landmark when, at the end, she upped that earnings level up to which no income tax is payable: Rs 7 lakh a year from the 2023-24 financial year. It was Rs 5 lakh so far.

    Under a new five-slab structure, those making even a rupee above it will have to pay tax — though they will get exemptions already available, such as life insurance premium and long-term mutual funds.

    She began her speech declaring it the “first budget of Amrit Kaal” — using a term coined by PM Narendra Modi’s government to define a brighter future as India completed 75 years of Independence.

    “Our vision for the ‘Amrit Kaal’ includes a technology-driven and knowledge-based economy, with strong public finances and a robust financial sector. To achieve this ‘jan-bhaagidari’ (public participation) through ‘sabka saath, sabka prayaas’ (efforts by all) is essential,” she said.

    She enumerated seven priorities: “Inclusive development, reaching the last mile, agriculture and investment, unleashing potential, green growth, youth power, and the financial sector.”

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