“If India, just risen from bondage, is to realise her identity and take her place in the front rank of free nations, she would require all the disciplined effort that her sons can put forth in the years immediately ahead,” were the words of the then finance minister RK Shanmukham Chetty while presenting the first budget of a free and independent India. Announced on November 26, 1947, the budget was an interim one covering seven months and a half. According to an article published on November 27, 1947, the Finance Minister summed up the country's general financial position thus: “While there is no room for complacency, there is equally no reason to take a pessimistic view”. He had no hesitation in describing the revenue position as sound. “We have not been living beyond our means, or heading towards bankruptcy,” he said.
An editorial piece published in The Free Press Journal on November 27, 1947, described the budget as ‘A Gliding Budget’. The piece reads, “The first budget of free and independent India is wrapped in clouds of rose-coloured optimism. It is striking in that it affords a vivid contrast to the all-pervading gloom that has shrouded the Dominion since its birth. It is also striking in that it glosses over the dark spots in the financial situation, in that it permits the nation to extend its reserves without augmenting the national income by additional taxation and in that it leaves wholly uncovered the deficit which it presents with little attempt made to balance the national exchequer. Mr Shanmukham Chetty sets the tone of this budget by the declaration that with an all-around determined effort, it should be possible to balance the budget by 1949-50. In the first place, the honourable finance minister is being far too optimistic when he says that when normal conditions prevail again, the defence expenditure will return to something like peace-time levels.
(Compiled by Sonali Pimputkar)