Rituals & Traditions around India’s Union Budget

The Budget has many traditions around it so let’s take a look at some of them.

The Union Budget, which will be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday, 1 February. The Budget has many traditions around it so let’s take a look at some of them.

The Halwa Ceremony 


One of the most well-known ceremonies linked with the Union Budget is the halwa ceremony.

Around 10 days before the Budget is read in Parliament, halwa is prepared for Finance Ministry officials working for the Budget preparation. After the ritual, these officials are locked away in the North Block. They are set free only before the presentation starts. The printing of the Budget documents commences after this ceremony.

However, this year the exercise was supplanted by the distribution of sweets to the core staff.

The Budget Briefcase

The ritual of carrying the Budget papers in a briefcase can be traced back to the British era. The word ‘budget’ finds its roots in the French word ‘bougette’, meaning ‘little bag’. Red is usually the chosen colour for the briefcase.

However, in 2019 Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman got the nation’s eye by changing the budget briefcase with a “bahi khata”. Nevertheless, last year, the bahi khata gave way to a tablet, marking a move in tandem with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s step for a “Digital India”.

A Click shot

On Budget day, the FM carries aloft his briefcase right outside the Parliament for a press photo session, before taking off to deliver his speech, a vital ritual that dates back to Queen Victoria’s time.

Printing Of the Budget documents 

The Budget papers used to be printed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, but they seeped in 1950. After that, the printing was changed to Minto Road in the capital.

However, since 1980, a private government press in North Block is used to print the papers.

Blue Sheet

The first draft of the Budget, with key numbers that are edited with new data constantly, is always handed over to the FM in light blue paper. A colonial tradition, as historically blue means unedited, preliminary documents in British Parliament. The Blue Sheet is shielded too briskly that not even the FM is permitted to keep it with himself.

The date & time of the Budget announcement 

Until 1999, the Budget used to be declared at 5 pm on the last functional day of February. In 1999, then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha shifted the modus operandi by declaring the Budget at 11 am.

In 2016, instead of presenting the Budget on the last working day of February, Jaitley performed it on 1 February. The new tradition is now continuing.

However, COVID-19 has changed all traditions and hence Budget rituals too. This year government put up with the consequence to go paperless for the budget, as the printing process needs various people to live in the press for around a fortnight. More than 100 people are needed to stay in the basement of North Block till the budget is presented in Parliament.

However, this year, the Budget, in view of upcoming Assembly polls in five states – including three major states –may see fresh rural schemes and step up funding to existing programmes like MNREGA, rural housing, irrigation projects, change in corporate taxes, crop insurance and Crypto inclusion.