There are various traditions attached to the presentation of annual budget ever since the Republic of India presented its first budget in 1950. Let’s go through a few them here in this article.
Budget is presented every year on February 1, 11:00 am
The entire process of presenting budget starts about five to seven months before the scheduled date to prepare the annual budget of our Union Government. It’s the budget for the entire country and hence, it is important to adhere to the schedules, as delay may hamper the progress of various schemes and projects. Earlier, the budget used to be presented on the last working day of February. However, in 2017, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley changed the date to February 1 to allow more time for the ministries, tax departments and the citizens to plan their year.
Even the timing of presenting the budget is fixed at 11:00 am. This scheduled time of presenting budget used to be 5:00 pm until 1999 when Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha set a new tradition of the budget at 11:00 am. Before independence, the British officials – ‘House of Lords’ and ‘House of Commons’ also used to take part in the budget presentation. The time for presentation of budget was set at 11:30 am in London and accordingly, the budget was presented at 5:00 pm in India.
Printing and security of budget papers
In 1950, a portion of the Union Budget was leaked when John Matthai was the finance minister. Until 1950 the Budget papers were printed at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. However, following the leak government moved the printing process to Minto Road. In 1980, the place for printing budget was changed to the North Block basement and the same has been continued till date. Tight security measures including tapping of phones and computers, high-tech surveillance, sweeps for electronic bugs, hidden cameras, jammers and scanners are all brought into action, to ensure nothing gets leaked before presentation as it did in the 1950.
The significance of Halwa Ceremony before Budget
The printing of the budget papers starts a week ahead of the date of presentation of the bill. All printing is done at a press in the basement of the finance ministry to maintain secrecy. The occasion is flagged off by a halwa ceremony where the desi sweet is served by the Finance Minister to around 100 officers and staff involved in the budget papers printing process. All these officers and staff remain at the Finance Ministry North Block, for next 7 days until the budget is presented. These officials are not allowed to even use their mobile phones and have to remain cut off from their family till the presentation of the Budget.
The 1947 Budget – First budget of independent India
The first budget of independent India was presented on November 26, 1947. It was a provisional budget presented by India’s first Finance Minister R K Shanmukham Chetti, as the country became independent three months before. A revised budget was presented in March, 1948 later. The total revenues of the Government of India stood at INR 171 crore as per the 1947 budget. (The total revenue is budgeted to be INR 21 lakh crore for 2022.)
The Sachin Tendulkar of Indian Budget
Sachin Tendulkar holds the record for most runs in cricketing world. When it comes to budgets, former Prime Minister Moraraji Desai holds the record of presenting the most number of budgets in the history of our country. Morarji Desai presented 10 budgets during his run as a Finance Minister from 1962 to 1969, the Sachin Tendulkar of Indian Budget. P Chidambaram reached close enough to break the record with 9 budget presentations. Pranab Mukherjee and Yashwant Sinha each presented 8 budgets while Manmohan Singh presented 6 budgets. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has presented her third budget this year.
The ‘Black budget’, ‘Epochal Budget’, and ‘Dream Budget’ of India
In 1973-74, Finance Minister Yashwantrao Chavan presented a budget with fiscal deficit of about INR 500 crore the maximum in those times. (Today India’s fiscal deficit is INR 9 lakh crore in 2019, INR 18 lakh crore in 2020 and INR 15 lakh crore budgeted in 2021.) Therefore, it was termed as Black Budget by many. The budget was preceded by India-Pakistan war in 1971 and a failed monsoon season. In 1991, Manmohan Singh presented the most historically significant budget for India when he marked the beginning of Economic Liberalisation in India. The budget of 1991 is therefore, recognized as the Epochal Budget. In 1997-98, P Chidambaram presented a budget where he lowered taxes for individuals as well as corporates. IT sector received a huge boost from the budget and India experienced an IT boom thereafter. The budget for the reforms it brought, is therefore, popularly remembered as the Dream Budget.