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Quoting Basaveshwara and 2,000-yr-old Tamil Poem, Nirmala Sitharaman Salutes Her Karmabhoomi and Janmabhoomi

If the finance minister quoted Kannada poetry to bring cheer to her ‘karmabhoomi’, she referred to her ‘janmabhoomi’ by quoting ancient Tamil scripture of the Sangam era - ‘Pura Nanooru’, an anthology of over 400 verses.

Deepa Balakrishnan, Poornima Muralideepab18

Updated:July 5, 2019, 6:26 PM IST
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Quoting Basaveshwara and 2,000-yr-old Tamil Poem, Nirmala Sitharaman Salutes Her Karmabhoomi and Janmabhoomi
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents Union Budget 2019 in the Lok Sabha on Friday. (PTI)
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Bengaluru: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman channeled her strong southern connect in her first Budget document, quoting off scriptures from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in her speech.

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While Sitharaman hails from Tamil Nadu, she is an MP elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka. Perhaps this is what prompted her to connect with the people in these two states in choosing to quote from Tamil and Kannada scriptures.

“This government recognises and follows the teachings of Lord Basaveshwara, in particular the principles of kayaka (work) and dasoha (charity). Implementing ‘Kayakave Kailasa’, the government enables about 10 million youth to take up industry relevant skill training… to prepare our youth to also take up jobs overseas,” she said, talking about the skill development programmes. She added that the government aims to impart skill training to youth in focus areas that are of demand abroad, such as artificial intelligence, big data and robotics.

The use of a phrase from 12th Century social reformer Basava’s ‘vachana’ brought particular cheer among watchers. Basaveshwara was a poet who had composed a large number of verses on life, called ‘vachanas,’ and is credited as the founder of the Lingayat faith, besides having been a proponent of major social reforms on casteism during the Bhakti movement.

“Kayaka means physical labour. Kaya is the human body in Kannada, and ‘kayakave kailasa’ means ‘work is heaven’ or ‘work is worship’,” said SM Jaamdar, one of the prominent Lingayat intellectuals in Karnataka.

In that particular verse, Basava tells his followers that Shiva comes to those who are immersed in blissful work. It aims to teach that once you are involved in a work, it doesn’t matter even if you ignore worshipping god or guru, as long as you are doing productive work.

“In fact, I have seen that the PM, too, has quoted Basavanna, in Parliament and even in meetings abroad. It helps give wide publicity to Basavanna’s preachings. Of course, they may be using this for vote-bank politics, using it for political reasons, but I wouldn’t criticise it on account of vote-bank appeasement. At least now the country knows there was a great man called Basavanna and he did great things,” Jaamdar told News18.

The Lingayat community, which has a significantly large population in Karnataka, has traditionally been a vote bank of the BJP.

If the finance minister quoted Kannada poetry to bring cheer to her ‘karmabhoomi’ (the land that she represents in Parliament), she referred to her ‘janmabhoomi’ (the land of her birth) by quoting ancient Tamil scripture of the Sangam era - ‘Pura Nanooru’, an anthology of over 400 verses.

This pre-historic anthology (believed to have been written between 1st Century BC and 3rd Century BC or more than 2,000 years ago) deals with the advice given to kings of Chola, Chera and Pandya regimes on various issues like war, ethics, morality and charity.

The verse she quoted – ‘Yaanai pugundha nilam’ (the field that an elephant enters) is attributed to Pisiranthaiyar as advice on taxation given to a Pandya king, Arivudai Nambi.

“A few pounds of rice from paddy that is harvested from a small piece of land would suffice for an elephant. But what if the elephant itself enter the field and starts eating? What it eats would be far lesser than what it would trample over!” she explained to puzzled MPs from across the country who were listening to her words in Tamil.

This was the reference that Sitharaman made to direct taxes, implying that the central government wouldn’t be like an elephant in a paddy field, needlessly taking more than what it needs, and ultimately destroying hard-earned savings in the process.

The government wanted to tax only what it would need for its revenues to implement its programmes, and doesn’t believe in imposing more taxes on people.

She went on to talk about tax reliefs on direct income taxes on people, reiterating that the relief from paying income tax for those who earn up to Rs 5 lakh per year (which was announced in the interim budget in February) will continue.

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