Utmost secrecy, halwa and printing presses: How India's annual Budget is prepared

The customary 'halwa ceremony' marks the beginning of the period when over a 100 finance ministry officials and staff begin to remain in isolation till the time the Finance Minister reads out his speech.

Utmost secrecy, halwa and printing presses: How India's annual Budget is prepared

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present the last full Budget of the Narendra Modi-led government on Friday. This budget is likely to be his toughest Budget yet as he seeks to address agriculture distress, create jobs and boost growth while at the same time stick to fiscal prudence.

As he prepares to present the Budget, here is a brief summary of the process that the Finance Ministry undergoes to make the annual statement.

The Union Budget is the annual statement of how much money the union government expects to raise in the next financial year and how it will spend that money. The 'Annual Financial Statement' is laid before both Houses of Parliament. The budget speech is also used by the government to propose other policy measures. 

The customary 'halwa ceremony' marks the beginning of the period when over a 100 finance ministry officials and staff begin to remain in isolation till the time the Finance Minister reads out his speech. As per tradition, the Finance Minister serves officials with bowls full of halwa at the North Block to thank his team for their hard work. 

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Officials are not even allowed to use their phones during this time. Even in case of emergencies, phone calls are made under a close watch of the Intelligence Bureau officers. Doctors too are available at the North Block in case of any emergencies, a special section at the nearby Ram Manohar Lohia hospital is also kept on standby where no visitors are allowed.

It was not always that such a secrecy was observed at the North Block. In fact, until 1950, the budget papers were printed in a press inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan premises. However, after a data leak there, the printing was done from a government press in Delhi and thereafter at finance ministry's own budget press located in the basement of the North Block.

The officials, primarily from the budget division, along with some from the law ministry, have little time to spare during that period and spend most of 

The Budget documents go through a thorough check with officials repeatedly vetting all sections of the annual budget. Traditionally, the expenditures budget is the first document to be prepared, followed by the revenue statements and budget proposals. The Finance Minister's speech is the last thing to be printed, usually at midnight before the budget day.

On Budget day till 8 am, various sets of the document are made. These budget sets in sealed copies are then handed over by the finance ministry officials to the security agency designated by the home ministry. The highly secured documents are then brought to Parliament.

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