The process of printing documents for the 2017-18 Budget began with the ritual ‘halwa ceremony’ in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s presence.
FM participated in the ritual ceremony along with other Finance Ministry officials at the North Block. More than 100 Finance Ministry officials will stay in Budget Printing Press till Jaitley presents his budget speech. It is done to maintain the secrecy of the budget preparation process.
As part of the ritual, which has continued for long, ‘halwa’ is served to the entire staff in the ministry. This year’s Budget is scheduled to be unveiled in Parliament on February 1.
‘Halwa ceremony’ marks the commencement of the printing process of documents of the Union Budget. It does not involve any big puja or worship, except lighting of incense sticks.
The officials associated with the preparation of the Budget and its printing gather at the printing press situated in the basement of the North Block and exchange wishes in the presence of the finance minister, and distribute halwa. And then, the printing begins.
Unlike all government publications that are printed at the government press, the Budget documents are printed in a special printing press situated in the basement of North Block, under tight security cover.
From 1947 (First Budget was tabled in the Parliament on 26 November, 1947) to 1950, printing took place at Rashtrapati Bhawan, till the Budget got leaked in 1950. The venue was then shifted to a government press on Minto Road, but since 1980, the North Block basement has become the permanent place for printing. The Budget press is fully air-conditioned, with modern printing machines.
The printing exercise begins nearly 10-15 days before the Budget day.
During this period the staff is not even allowed to contact their near and dear ones through phone or e-mails. Only very senior officials in the finance ministry are permitted to leave the premisis.
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.
The “lock-in” which follows the ‘halwa ceremony’ is observed to maintain the secrecy of the Budget preparation process.
The 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 Union Budget of Independent India was presented by R K Shanmukham Chetty on November 26, 1947.