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Union Budget traditions: From halwa ceremony, leather briefcase, to budget speech

SNS | New Delhi |

As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents the Union Budget 2018-19 in the Lok Sabha on Thursday (1 February 2018), which is BJP-led NDA government’s last full Budget before the polls in 2019 and also the first Union Budget since the government announced the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Here’s a look at the budget traditions in India

Halwa ceremony and printing of documents:

The Finance Ministry launched the formal printing of documents relating to the Union Budget 2018-2019 after the traditional Halwa ceremony was conducted at North Block in New Delhi on Saturday.

The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley performed the symbolic Halwa ceremony along with Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg and other senior officials.

The Halwa ceremony is an interesting Budget tradition. In the ceremony the Finance Minister of India is photographed stirring a huge kadhai with the simmering sweet. This ceremony marks the process of printing documents for the Budget. Halwa, an Indian dessert is prepared in a big kadhai and served to all finance ministry officials.

After the sweets are served, the officials who are tasked with printing of Union Budget are locked up in a basement in North Block. In 1980, the basement of the North Block was allocated as the space for printing the Budget.

Officials entrusted with printing of the Union Budget are lodged in the North Block building’s basement for at least 10 days along with all the necessary arrangements.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will announce the Union Budget on 1 February and will deliver his 5th consecutive Budget.

‘Bougette’ to budget:

The Budget word is derived from the French word “bougette”. The word bougette means ‘small bag’; once considered enough to hold government’s revenue and expenditure.

Briefcase tradition: 

The entire Budget process has been handed over us by the British, and so was the tradition of carrying the Budget briefcase. India’s different finance ministers have carried different briefcases of different colours.

The Finance Minister pose with a leather briefcase on the budget day before its announcement in the Parliament. The tradition of carrying a leather briefcase and maintaining the secrecy around it has been passed down by the British.

The first finance minister of independent India, RK Shanmukham Chetty, presented the country’s first budget on November 26, 1947. He was photographed with the leather bag just before entering the Parliament.

Date and time of Budget: 

The practice of presenting Union Budget on February 1 started in 2017. Before that, the budget used to be presented on the last day of February. The new schedule was implemented to make funds available from the starting of the financial year.

In 1999, the then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha changed the modus operandi by announcing the Budget at 11 am.

In 2016, instead of announcing the Budget on the last working day of February, Jaitley did it on 1 February. The new tradition is likely to continue.

The Budget cycle lasts 12 months, from April to March.