The Union Budget of 2020 lies right around the corner. As you eagerly await Nirmala Sitharaman’s second Budget, you might stop and wonder about the whole process that goes into bringing the Union Budget to the people of India. After all, anything that dates back this far is bound to have some interesting tales and traditions.
Here’s some fun facts about the all-important Union Budget:
Birth of a budget
The Union Budget is ‘born’ or in this case printed at a government press in the Finance Ministry’s North Block. Prior to this it was printed at a press located at the Minto Road in New Delhi. Here’s an interesting anecdote: it was initially printed at Rashtrapati Bhavan but in 1950 it was leaked and was thereafter shifted to more secure locations.
Did you know that the officials are locked in?
Once the printing of the Union Budget begins, the Finance Minister and other associated finance ministry officials are not allowed to leave or contact anyone including their families by telephone or social media. They are locked in until the budget is presented before the Lok Sabha. The lockdown lasts almost a week.
What happens if the budget is leaked? It’s not a board exam – they’re going to announce it anyway!
Well, those who get a hold of it beforehand will make a killing in the stock markets. They will walk away rich, but unethically so, because they had access to vital information that nobody else had and could, therefore, make smarter bets. The one time it did happen, the Finance Minister was criticised for not being sufficiently careful and had to resign.
Have you ever heard of budget halwa?
After all, in India, all important things start and end with something sweet. The halwa is whipped up on the Finance Ministry premises and is served to everyone as a sign of gratitude, or a pat on the back perhaps, for the herculean effort that goes into preparing the Union Budget.
A boys club… almost.
Last year, Nirmala Sitharaman became only the second female Finance Minister (and is the very first full-time female Finance Minister) to present the union budget. Indira Gandi was the first-ever woman to present the Union Budget back in the 1970s.
The budget has… well it had… a designated briefcase
A tradition inherited from the British was that of the budget briefcase. The tradition dates way back to the 1800s and ironically is linked to Chancellor William Gladstone’s budget box (not briefcase). He, apparently, had the box specially made with specific directions requiring it to be a wooden box, covered in red leather, lined with black velvet. Ever since, the British Finance Ministers have handed briefcases down to their replacements. Indian Finance Ministers have each used their own briefcase, but most had the briefcase crafted from leather and of a black, brown or tan colour.
Nirmala Sitharaman broke this tradition last year when she carried the budget papers encased in a red cloth bearing India’s national emblem embossed in gold at its centre.
It also had a designated date…
Starting from the colonial era and up until 2017, the Budget was always presented on the last day of February. However ,Arun Jaitley broke the tradition by announcing the Union Budget on February 1, 2017, thereby ushering in a new tradition.
…and a designated time
Once again, the time for presenting the Union Budget originated back in the colonial period and was designated for 5 am. However, in 1998, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha ushered in a new tradition of announcing the budget at 11 am.
The railway budget was presented separately
For 92 years, the railway budget was presented separately, a few days prior to the Union Budget. 2017, besides marking a change in the date of the budget presentation, also marked the merging of the Railway Budget and the Union Budget.
Morarj Desai is, until now, the only Finance Minister to have presented not one but two Union Budgets on his birthday.
- That’s not the only record created by Morarji Desai. He is also the only Finance Minister to have presented the Union Budget a total of 10 times! P Chidambaram follows closely with eight Union Budget
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi made a record for the most members of the same family presenting a Union Budget.
- The longest ever speech was allegedly given by Manmohan Singh in 1991 and the shortest by HM Patel in 1977.
- The first-ever budget of India actually took place pre-Independence in 1860.
Well, there you have it. The Union Budget brings with it a lot of history and traditions. Expectations for this edition of the Union Budget run high. It remains to be seen if this year’s Budget lives up to expectations and creates some more memorable events.