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The Union Budget brings in a lot of colours and excitement with it. There are myriads of rituals and traditions forming part of the rich heritage.  In an effort to identify the most interesting rituals we have compiled the following:

The 5:00 P.M. Story

The Union Budget in India would be presented at 5:00 P.M. every year until 2000. We had followed this ritual from 1947 to 2000. Clichéd as it may sound but even after independence our country blindly followed the traditions set up by the British without any rhyme or reason. There are no specific reasons recorded for the same but when one tries to dig deep, one finds some interesting reasons which have been shared as under:

The story goes that the precedent for delivering the budget speech at 5:00 P.M. was set up by Sir Basil Blackett in 1924. This was done to provide relief to all those officials who burnt the midnight oil to prepare the financial statements.

The second and more obvious reason is the fact that during the pre independence era, there was a rule to present the budget of India at the British Parliament immediately after their own Budget was presented. When the Budget was presented at 5:00 P.M. in India it was noon in England.

Even after 53 years of independence we followed the same rule until the year 2001 when YashwantSinha started the trend of presenting the Union Budget at 11:00 A.M.

The Halwa Ceremony

India is a land of culture, traditions and rituals, which have been deeply engrained and enshrined in all our actions, big or small. The Government is no stranger to these traditions. Most of these are symbolic and generate immense interest and curiosity. One such tradition is the famous Halwa Ceremony at the Ministry of Finance, which took place last Friday.  It has been a tradition, which has continued for long. As part of the ritual, 'halwa' is prepared in a big 'kadhai' (vessel) and served to the entire staff in the ministry. The sweet delight brings with the significant time in Budget preparation. The halwa ceremony marks the start of “Lock-in” period for all the officials involved in the preparation of budget. Almost 100 such officials won’t be allowed to go home, meet guests or take regular calls until the Finance Minister presents the budget on the 28th of February. These officials are allowed to make urgent calls at home under close monitoring and supervision. This is done to preserve the secrecy of the budget documents as in a country like India any leaked information can have a huge impact on the Share market and stock prices.

The very senior officials and ministers in the Finance Minister are however allowed to go home. Many of these officers know the part of a budget but restricted to their area of work. If compared to the western countries, the Union Budget in India is an event in itself. In the west budget is more of a presentation of Financial Statements; whereas in India it always comes as a wave of big policy announcements, big enough to create nervous excitement or ripples of unsettling nerves through the Stock market and corporate houses. 

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Anjani Kumar Sharma
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