What It Takes To Keep The Union Budget A Secret
The pre-Independence era secrecy around the Union Budget, before it is unveiled, is zealously guarded to this day
In the run-up to every Union Budget, the media is rife with speculation about possible tax-breaks to the middle class, concessions to the industry and incentives to the farming sector. That’s because the Finance Ministry goes to great lengths to keep everything related to the Budget a secret. That is how the sanctity of the Budget is maintained year after year.
Here’s how the ministry achieves this task:
- The annual Budget is prepared by the Budget Division of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) headed by the joint secretary (Budget) of the ministry of finance.
- The Budget making process kicks off with the ‘Blue Sheet,’--called so because of its colour--which forms the basis of the Budget numbers. The sheet is updated with new data constantly. The minister takes the help of this blue sheet to plan government spending and other proposals. The joint secretary is the sole custodian of this sheet. Even the Finance Minister cannot take it out of the ministry.
- The security arrangements for the entire Budget period at the Finance Ministry are taken over by the officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The IB is responsible for screening all the officers and staff associated with the Budget. It is said that even the phone calls of officials are monitored by the IB so that no Budget-related information is leaked to the media or anyone else.
- The traditional Halwa ceremony that is held more than a week before the Union Budget, marks the printing of the Union Budget papers at the press that is located in the basement of North Block of the Central Secretariat in New Delhi.
- The ‘Halwa ceremony’ also marks the “lock-in” of more than 100 officials of the Finance Ministry involved in the preparation of the Union Budget papers.
- Until 1950, the Budget papers were printed in a press within the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a stone’s throw away from the North Block, but after a leak of Budget papers, it was moved away from there. Finally, the North Block’s basement became the permanent place for printing the Union Budget papers.
- The North Block houses all the officials in the period leading up to the presentation of Union Budget in Parliament by the Finance Minister. This year it will be on 1 February 2020.
- The security is so tight during this period that even the Finance Minister, when she visits the press, will not be allowed to take her mobile phone inside.