New Delhi: The process of printing documents for the Budget 2016-17 began today with the ritual 'halwa ceremony', which was attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his deputy Jayant Sinha in the North Block office. 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.
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, 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 second full-fledged Budget of the present NDA government, is scheduled to be unveiled in Parliament on February 29.
"Halwa ceremony today in Budget press of Finance Ministry. Marks the beginning of Budget printing process," Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta 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.