Why Nirmala Sitharaman quoted Thiruvalluvar and Avvaiyar in Budget 2020

The legendary Tamil poets were quoted by the Finance Minister on two separate occasions. She recited a line from Aathichoodi and Thiruvalluvar's 5 Jewels  
Image for representational purpose only
Image for representational purpose only

During her budget speech, the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman flexed her literary muscle in abundance - particularly when she quoted the legendary Tamil poets Thiruvalluvar and Avvaiyar. While she recited the Thirukkural to explain the '5 Jewels of a good country' to justify how India possesses it all, she quoted a line from the Aathichoodi while presenting her action plan for Indian farmers.

"I fall back on the wise words of Thiruvalluvar. We've heard of several words of wisdom from the legendary poet. He has spoken about what a good country is and what makes up for the jewels of a good country," said Sitharaman. She then went ahead to read the original text in Tamil and then translated it to English. She said, "There are five jewels for a good country. A good country must be free from epidemics, it must be wealthy, it should grow crops, people there must be happy and security and safety of the country must be a top priority," she says.

Later, she went on to say that India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, qualifies to be a good country. This, however, was met with a lot of booing from the opposition MPs. However, Sitharaman continued to say people are healthier under the Aayushman Bharat scheme, farmers' income has increased by double, citizens are happy,  wealth providers are respected and that national security is a priority.

An hour before this, while presenting the action plan for the farmers, Sitharaman quoted the line, "Bhoomi thiruthi un," which literally translates to "Cultivate the land and feed." "In Tamil Nadu, there was a very wise old woman saint-poet who lived more than 3,000 years ago. She used every letter of the Tamil alphabet to teach the children moral stories," said Sitharaman. "Now these stories were mostly three-word-long lines. They were quite simple. Their collection was called Aathichoodi and was written by Avvaiyaar," she says. Later, she also drew parallels between the Prime Minister's vision for the country and the line from Aathichoodi.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman kicked off the Union Budget Session on February 1, 2020 at 11 am.  

This budget is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second opportunity in seven months to refresh policy priorities to support an economy on a downward spiral. The Economic Survey that was released on January 31, a day before, projected India's economic growth at 6 per cent to 6.5 per cent in the next financial year starting April 1, saying growth has bottomed out. The growth in 2020-21 compares to a projected 5 per cent expansion in 2019-20.

Weak global growth impacting India, as well as investment slowdown due to financial sector issues, had led to growth dropping to a decade low in current fiscal, said the survey, adding 5 per cent growth projected for 2019-20 is the lowest it could fall for now.

The survey that sets the premise of the Union Budget, said that along with efforts for generating additional employment, special focus has been on improving quality of jobs and formalisation of the economy. The share of regular wage or salaried employees has increased by 5 percentage points from 18 per cent in 2011-12 to 23 per cent in 2017-18. In absolute terms, there was a significant jump of around 2.62 crore new jobs with 1.21 crore in rural areas and 1.39 crore in urban areas in this category.

The survey also introduced Thalinomics to Indians — affordability of Thalis vis-à-vis a day’s pay of a worker, which has improved over time, indicating improved welfare of the common person. The survey stated that affordability of vegetarian Thalis improved 29 per cent from 2006-07 to 2019-20 while that for non-vegetarian Thalis by 18 per cent.

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