With the Union Budget 2019 round the corner, there's strong speculation that the common man may get some reliefs, including perhaps direct tax concessions. While tax payers wait for the good news, the budget makers have already had their bite of the sweetmeat. Yes literally. The pre-budget Halwa ceremony was conducted at the North Bock on Monday, setting off the printing of the secretive budget files.
What's Halwa ceremony? What's its history?
The Halwa ceremony marks the beginning of the budget printing at the finance ministry. This happens about a fortnight before the scheduled day for budget presentation. Halwa, a popular dessert, is cooked in a large frying pan and served to all the finance ministry employees. The finance minister and all the top brass in the ministry attend the function.
One the Halwa ceremony is over, about a hundred of the key personnel of the ministry will be cloistered in the dungeons of the North Block. These officials will spend several days inside the ministry basement, where the final work on the budget, including its printing, will take place.
Halwa Ceremony was held today in North Block, New Delhi to mark the Ceremonial beginning of printing of #Budget2019 documents
This year's Halwa ceremony was held on Monday. In the absence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the minsters of state presided over the function.
"Halwa Ceremony was held today in North Block, New Delhi to mark the Ceremonial beginning of printing of #Budget2019 documents- Both the MoS (Finance) Shiv Pratap Shukla and Pon Radhakrishnan jointly launched the ceremony and shared the Halwa with the Ministry officials, the finance ministry said.
The extreme secrecy surrounding the budget making is part of the British legacy. The staff involved in budget making are literally locked inside the basement. They can't make phone calls or send emails. There's only one phone in the premises, and that can only receive calls. Even when the staff talk to their families in emergencies, sleuths from the Intelligence bureau keep a watch.
The security regime is so rigorous that even the finance minister cannot enter the basement with his mobile phone after the Halwa ceremony
Budget proclamations may have ceased to have the huge impact they once had. But in the past, budget was the only document that outlined drastic decisions concerning the economy. In the initial years, the Indian budget was printed in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. A leak in the early 1950s made it necessary to carry out the process under tighter vigil. The printing was first moved to the government press in Minto Road and then to the North Block.
Every year since 1980, the budget printing has taken place in the basement of the North Block.
The security regime is so rigorous that even the finance minister cannot enter the basement with his mobile phone after the Halwa ceremony. Among the 100 or so officials holed up inside the basement, only very few top level bureaucrats are even allowed to go home before the presentation of the budget.
While CRPF personnel take guard outside the building, IB detectives follow the movements of the top officials. The official are finally allowed to go home only after the finance minister has presented the budget in parliament.
The whole process starts on a sweet note, the Halwa ceremony!