Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday arrived at the Parliament with this year’s Union Budget documents in a traditional four-fold red cloth ledger or a “bahi-khata”. Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian claimed that the ledger was “Indian tradition”, and said “it symbolises our departure from slavery of Western thought”, ANI reported.
Sitharaman’s red ledger generated a lot of attention as it departed from the traditional briefcase, which previous finance ministers have brought to Parliament ahead of presenting the annual Budget. The “budget case” tradition was started in the 18th Century when the Chancellor of the Exchequer carried his papers for the budget in a red suitcase, which adorned the Queen’s monogram in gold, according to NDTV.
Subramanian said the finance minister did not consider leather products auspicious for big occasions and therefore wanted to avoid it. “This is considered to be auspicious,” ANI quoted him as saying. “The finance minister has worked in the UK and she knows the tradition of our country. We must appreciate her decision.”
Bahi-khata is the traditional Indian system of double-entry book keeping. A traditional bahi-khata is made out of cotton cloth and thread for binding the handmade papers, according to The Times of India.
However, not everyone approved of this gesture by the finance minister. Twitter user Mario da Penha pointed out that the use of the “bahi-khata” has ended up ruining official papers. “Any historian will attest to the flaws of preserving docs by following the ‘Indian tradition’ of merely tying them up with cloth, like FM @nsitharaman did today [Friday],” Penha tweeted. “It isn’t durable and ends up ruining official papers.” He also attached a picture showing the condition of documents wrapped in the ledger at Pune’s Peshwa Daftar that has a vast collection of Maharashtra’s historical records.
He said that British officials chose to carry documents in hard cardboard or leather-bound ledgers as they “fare far better than cloth-bound ledgers, or even the practice of tying up loose sheets of paper in large sheets of rough cloth (called “rumals”), as was the tradition until the 19th century”.
Previously, Sitharaman had done away with another tradition of cutting the ribbon during the customary halwa ceremony. Sitharaman had untied the ribbon instead as she believed cutting it would not have been auspicious.