Union Budget 2023: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is set to present her fifth Budget today. Every year, as we move closer to the Union Budget date, we get to hear financial jargon like ‘Bahi Khata’, ‘halwa ceremony’, and others. The Union Budget is not just significant for various industries and economy, but it has an intriguing history – From the halwa ceremony to the speech and printing place, everything is important.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday will present the last budget of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s second term. The presentation is scheduled to commence at 11 am at the Parliament. Let’s take a look at the traditions that take place during the Budget every year.
The Halwa Ceremony
Marking the official beginning of the Budget, the Finance Minister stirs halwa (an Indian sweet dish) which is served to all the colleagues and officials from other ministries in the North Block building. After the ceremony, the budget documents are usually printed, but the process changed in 2021 when the budget became paperless due to the Covid-19 pandemic budget.
The Halwa-making ceremony is important because after it is over, all finance ministry officials involved in preparing the budget are supposed to move to the basement of the North Block till the budget is presented. This is done to ensure no leakages in the budget for the next financial year, prepared in consultation with the Niti Aayog and other concerned ministries.
The transformation from briefcase to ‘bahi khata’ to a digital tablet
For the unversed, the word ‘budget’ has its routes in the French word ‘bougette’, which means a leather briefcase. The tradition of keeping the budget papers in a briefcase and carrying it to the Parliament during a budget presentation was inherited from British colonial rule.
India’s budget briefcase was created to replicate the ‘Gladstone box’, which the Chancellor of Exchequer (equivalent to India’s finance minister) used to present the budget. While in Britain, the briefcase is passed down from one minister to the other, in India, different finance ministers have carried their own briefcases.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is known for bringing changes
In 2019, Nirmala Sitharaman ditched the archaic briefcase to carry her Budget papers in a ‘bahi khata’ style. Commenting on the switch from briefcases, the Finance Minister had said, “I changed it because the suitcase immediately gave me a negative connotation. I knew this government was never about the briefcase business.”
Over the years, she has managed to evolve – ‘Bahi khata’ to a Made-in-India tablet. The tab is usually wrapped in traditional red cloth with a golden emblem of the Indian government on it.