Nirmala Sitharaman: India’s First Woman Finance Minister

The presentation of the full union budget for the FY 2019-20 on 5 July 2019 will set a new record in the history of the Indian Parliament. Nirmala Sitharaman, the current Finance Minister, who also happens to be the first-ever full-time female Finance Minister, is set to present her maiden budget. She will be the second woman to present the Indian budget. Previously, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi presented the Indian budget for the FY 1970-71.

1970-71 was compelled to take over the Finance Ministry as Morarji Desai, the then Finance Minister resigned due to a fall out with Indira Gandhi and her supporters. This event prompted her to become the first woman to present the Indian budget on 28 February 1970.

In her budget speech, Indira Gandhi, hiked the marginal tax rate by 11% points to touch the 93% mark on incomes over and above Rs 2 lakh. There was a surcharge imposed at 15%. The announcement meant that for every Rs 100 earned over and above Rs 2 lakh, an individual was liable to pay a tax of Rs 93.5, you could only take home a mere Rs 6.5.

This announcement was reportedly made to give her ruling Congress (INC) party an image of supporting egalitarianism and social equality by opposing the social hierarchy. Indira Gandhi set the tone for the 1970-71 budget by quoting a famous slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’. She announced various anti-poverty programs to translate India into a revenue deficit nation from revenue surplus nation.

Also Read: Budget Flashbacks: trivia, facts and more

Fast forward 2019, the NDA government has handed over the reins of the Finance Ministry to Nirmala Sitharaman. She is also the Minister of Corporate Affairs. Nirmala Sitharaman, 59, is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha from Karnataka. She has previously served as the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Commerce and Industry.

Coincidentally, Nirmala Sitharaman was also the second woman Defence Minister of India, with Indira Gandhi beating her to it yet again. Nirmala Sitharaman headed the Ministry of Defense when the Indian Airforce conducted the famous Balakot airstrike.

Nirmala Sitharaman obtained a degree, Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College, Tiruchirappalli in the year 1980. She completed her post graduation, Master of Arts degree in Economics and M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the year 1984. She then enrolled for a PhD in economics but had to discontinue it due to her immigration to London.

Nirmala Sitharaman worked as a Senior Manager, Research and Development (R&D) at PricewaterhouseCoopers, London. She later went on to work as an assistant to a famous Economist in the Agricultural Engineers Association, UK. Mrs Sitharaman has also had a stint with BBC World before returning to India.

In her early days, Nirmala Sitharaman worked as a salesperson at a home-decor store in Regent Street. She has come a long way since then to become the first-ever full-time woman Finance Minister of India. With a woman at the helm of the country’s finances, the female working population is expecting benefits in the form of reduced tax rates and additional exemptions.

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