Budget 2019-20: Nirmala Sitharaman quotes Sangam era Tamil poetry, Lord Basveshwara in her maiden budget speech

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden budget speech drew generously from literature and sayings from sources as varied as Chanakya Niti, Sangam era Tamil literature and Lord Basveshwara.

Minutes into her speech, Ms. Sitharaman quoted from Chankaya Niti Sutra: “Karya purusha karena lakshyam sampadyate (with determined human efforts, the task will surely be completed)”. She said this to stress her point that the Narendra Modi government would now further accelerate and simplify procedures for the mega programmes and services initiated and delivered during the past five years. “We shall… further simplify procedures, incentivise performance, reduce red-tape and make the best use of technology just as we did earlier.”

On the same context she quoted an Urdu couplet which reads: Yakin ho tho koi raastha nikaltha hai, hawa ki ot bhi lekar chiraag jaltha hai (There is a way out if you are convinced, the lamp burns with the wind).” The couplet is by Urdu poet Manzoor Hashmi. But Ms. Sitharaman chose not to name the poet.

The Finance Minister said the government recognises and follows the teachings of Lord Basveshwara, in particular the principles of Kayaka (earning or work) and Dasoha (giving back to society). “Implementing Kayakeva Kailasa (work is worship), the government enables about 10 million youth to take up industry-relevant skills training through the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). This is helping to create a large pool of skilled manpower with speed and high standards,” she said. Further talking about LPG subsidy, Ms. Sitharaman said: “Drawing again on Lord Basveshwara, his principle of Dasoha underlines most things this government does. ‘Give It Up’ for giving up LPG subsidy or the various pension schemes are on the principle of sharing through distribution, for the wellness of the society.”

While praising responsible taxpayers who contribute to “our collective dream of inclusive and all round development of our nation”, Ms. Sitharaman said she finds “wisdom in a line from Pura Nanooru”. Pura Nanooru is a collection of 400 war and other poems by different poets from the Sangam era (400 B.C. to 200 A.D.) of Tamil literature. The passage quoted by Ms. Sitharaman was from a poem titled Yanai pugundha nilam written by Pisirandaiyaar who sang it as an advice to the King Pandian Arivudai Nambi on tax collection. It reads:

Kaai nel aruththu kavalam koline…

Arivudai venthan neriyarinthu koline…

Parivu thaba edukkum pinam nachchin,

Yaanai pukka pulam pola

Thaanum unnaan, ulagamum kedume

(A few mounds of rice from paddy

that is harvested from a small piece of land

would suffice for an elephant.

But what if the elephant itself

enters the field and starts eating?

What it eats would be far lesser

than what it would trample over)

Click here to read the full poem in Tamil.


Pisiranthaiyaar told the king that he should not exploit his subjects in the name of taxation. If the king does so it would benefit neither the king nor the citizens. After quoting the poem, Ms. Sitrharaman said her tax proposals will aim to stimulate growth, incentivise affordable housing, and encourage start-ups by releasing entrepreneurial spirits. “It will also be geared towards promoting digital economy. I aim to simplify tax administration and bring greater transparency.”

Further into her speech, she quoted Swami Vivekananda while talking about women’s empowerment. “Swami Vivekananda in a letter to Swami Ramakrishnanda had said: ‘There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing’. This government believes that we can make progress with greater women’s participation.”

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