Printing of Budget document begins with 'halwa' ceremony

Budget2016-Halwa Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley with the officials of his ministry taking part in the Halwa Ceremony to mark the beginning of printing of budgetary documents, in New Delhi on Friday | PTI

To mark an auspicious start to the printing process of Budget documents, popular Indian dessert 'halwa' was on Friday cooked and dished out in Finance Ministry here as the last mile run began in the preparation of Union Minister Arun Jaitley's third Budget.

Before the minister presents the Budget in Parliament on February 29, a lot of work goes on behind the locked doors of the Finance Ministry in North Block. The final lap of printing of budget documents begins with a traditional halwa ceremony.

Jaitley along with Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian and all secretaries under him gathered on Friday at the printing press situated in the basement of the North Block for the ceremony.

Halwa, made of semolina and sugar, was distributed with Jaitley serving some of the staffers before himself tasting it.

After distribution of halwa, which is prepared at the same venue in a large kadhai (large frying pot), Jaitley exchanged wishes with officials, after which the printing began.

Halwa ceremony holds significance as staff directly associated with the Budget making and printing process are required to stay in the ministry, cut off from their families.

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.

Finance Secretary Ratan Watal, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, Disinvestment Secretary Neeraj Gupta, Finance Services Secretary Anjuly Duggal and other officers and staff of the ministry involved with Budget preparation were also present.

The Budget for 2016-17, which will be the second full-fledged Budget of the present NDA government, is scheduled to be unveiled in Parliament on February 29. It will be third budget of Jaitley if the interim budget of July 2014 is also counted.

"Halwa ceremony today in Budget press of Finance Ministry. Marks the beginning of Budget printing process," Das tweeted.

Around 100 officials are involved in the printing of the Budget and they will remain "locked" in the North Block office till the presentation of Budget on February 29.

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.

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