Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and other officials on Thursday participated in the ‘halwa ceremony’, a ritual which marks the process of printing documents for the Budget for 2017-18.
“After the Halwa ceremony, more than 100 officials of Finance Ministry will stay in Budget printing press till FM’s Budget Speech is over,” the ministry said in a series of tweets.
The ceremony, it said, marks the beginning of the printing of documents which are part of the Union Budget 2017-18.
As part of the ritual, which has continued for long, ‘halwa’ is prepared in a big ‘kadhai’ (large frying pot) and served to the entire staff in the ministry.
Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian and other officers and staff of the ministry involved with Budget preparation were also present.
The significance of the sweet dish is that after it is served, a large number of officials and support staff, who are directly associated with the Budget making and printing process, Union Budget 2017 are required to stay in the ministry and remain cut off from their families till the presentation of the Budget by the minister in the Lok Sabha.
They are not even allowed to contact their near and dear ones through phone or any other form of communication, like e-mail.
Only very senior officials in the Finance Ministry are permitted to go home.
The Budget, which will be the third full-fledged Budget of the present NDA government, is scheduled to be unveiled in Parliament on February 1 as against the usual date of last working day of the next month.
The lock-in which follows the ‘halwa ceremony’ is observed to maintain the secrecy of the Budget preparation process.
Budget Press in North Block houses all these officials in the period leading up to the presentation of Union Budget in Parliament by the Finance Minister.
The first Budget of Independent India was presented by R K Shanmukham Chetty on November 26, 1947.