In an unprecedented move, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman referred to former PM Rajiv Gandhi without naming him at the commencement of her budget speech. The political undertone in the budget was meant to buttress the Modi government’s achievements in expanding direct cash transfers to people across India. Sitharaman said, “A former PM had once observed that only 15 paisa of every rupee released by the government reaches the poor.”
Rajiv Gandhi had made the famous remark in 1985 during a visit to the drought hit Kalahandi district in Odisha. Gandhi’s remarks have been quoted by many leaders and policy makers over the years. Even the Supreme Court had quoted the “15 paisa” remark while delivering its judgment allowing linking Aadhar to PAN.
Rajiv Gandhi’s remarks during her budget speech has often been ridiculed by senior BJP leaders in the past. In 2017, PM Modi had taunted the Congress at an election rally in Himachal Pradesh on Gandhi’s observations. Modi had said, “"Rajiv was such a doctor who diagnosed the problem of corruption, but did not do anything about it.”
India’s expenditure on social services (health, education and others) by the Centre and States as a proportion of GDP increased from 6.2 per cent in 2014-15 to 7.7 per cent in 2019-20. A significant part of this was provided as direct cash transfers into bank accounts of beneficiaries.