Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday sought to highlight the “transparent” functioning of the Narendra Modi government, saying it did not indulge in “exchanging suitcases”.
“There is no necessity to carry a suitcase in the Modi government. Giving and taking are transparent via tenders. When we do our work, there are certain practices of our own,” she said while speaking at the International Business Conference of Nagarathars in Chennai.
Sitharaman had carried the Budget documents in a red-cloth bag on July 5 in reminiscence of the traditional bahi khata, instead of a leather briefcase, used by most of the past finance ministers.
“It became news that I had not carried a suitcase of the English for the Budget presentation… We have been keeping our account books. During navaratri or puja, we respect those books with a vermilion mark, flower and akshatha, and that is our culture. I did not put turmeric, vermillion or akshatha on the Budget copy; it is a secular government. But I did not carry a leather suitcase either,” she said.
On criticism about the increase in the ‘super-rich’ tax in the Budget, the finance minister said it was not robbery, but an effort to help everyone grow. She added that not more than 5,000 people were in the category.
Sitharaman has proposed to enhance the surcharge on individuals having taxable income of Rs 2-5 crore, and Rs 5 crore and above. The move will lead to a rise in effective tax rates by around 3 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively, for the two categories. “The tax on the super-rich is to say 'can you not share a little more of the burden of responsibility to take care of the poor?' Please don’t think that we just imposed the tax without any thought behind it,” she said.
“While I appreciate India Inc is the wealth creator and job creator, I still want to emphasise that in our country, in the first 60 years, we have heard speeches about rights and very little about duties. The Nagarathar community has always been at the forefront to do its duties even without being asked. We should speak about our duties as much as we speak about rights," she said.