There was no Thirukkural or Tagore in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget 2023 presentation, which, unlike the poetic detours of the past, kept to a crisp, prosaic tempo. Her fifth Budget speech was her shortest at 87 minutes, five minutes less than last year’s, but it had a gem of an idea, some new grains of thought, and a few offbeat takes.

Glittering proposal

Diamonds—rather, lab-grown diamonds—could be India’s best friend going by the encouragement in the Budget speech. “Customs duty on the seeds used in lab-grown diamond (LGD) manufacturing will be reduced,” announced the FM, adding that an R&D grant would be given to the IITs to facilitate some cutting-edge technological innovation in the field. The FM talked about the high employment potential of lab-grown diamonds. Of late, lab-grown diamonds, which are cheaper than those mined from the earth and also have an ethical tag, have taken the jewellery market by storm, and India’s exports of these have been surging.

Retail recipe

For those shopping for new stuff in the Budget document, the FM’s proposal of a Unity Mall was definitely attention-grabbing. She said that States would be encouraged to set up a Unity Mall in their capital city or the most popular destination in the state for the promotion and sale of “One District, One Product,” GI products, and other handicrafts. The possibilities did seem interesting—for instance, West Bengal could certainly have a mall with Darjeeling tea, Malda mangoes, Santhiniketan handicrafts, and more. 

Millet mania

In the year of the millet, naturally there was expectation that the super cereal grains would get attention, but the twist was when the FM announced that they would be called Shri Anna. “India is the largest producer and second-largest exporter of Shri Anna in the world,” she said, rattling off all the different “Anna” names, from jowar to bajra, Kodo to Kuttu.

Special treatment

Only one State got special largesse – poll-bound Karnataka, where Sitharaman is a Rajya Sabha MP. The State got a ₹5,300 outlay for the Upper Bhadra Irrigation Project, which could provide succour to drought-prone areas of Central Karnataka.