Ahead of the presentation of Union Budget 2019, here are ten remarkable
characteristics about India's budget in the last seven decades.
1. The printing of budget documents starts roughly 10 days before its presentation in the Parliament with a customary ‘Halwa ceremony’, during which the sweet dish is prepared and served to the finance ministry officers and support staff involved. The ceremony marks the start of the lock-in period to maintain budget secrecy, which means the staff remains isolated and stay in the North Block office until the Budget is presented in parliament.
2. Until 1999, the Union Budget was announced at 5 pm on the last working day of the month of February. This practice was inherited from the Colonial Era. It was Yashwant Sinha, the then finance minister in the NDA government, who changed the ritual by announcing the 1999 Union Budget at 11 am.
3. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi are the only Prime Ministers to have presented a budget.
4. Again in 2017, departing from the colonial-era tradition of presenting the Union Budget on the last working day of February, then finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that budget will now be presented on February 1. Additionally, the rail budget, presented separately for 92 years, was merged with Union Budget.
5. Arun Jaitley’s first Budget speech, presented in 2014, is by far the longest Budget speech ever with 253 paragraphs and it went on for 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is excluding a four-minute break that he took for his health reasons.
6. This year, the Economic Survey of India will also be made public before the Budget 2019 presentation as it was not published at the time interim Budget presentation in February 2019.
7. Indira Gandhi was the only woman Finance Minister who had presented the Union Budget. Following the presentation of Union Budget 2019-20, Nirmala Sitharaman will become the second woman Finance Minister to present the Union Budget of India.
8. Budget documents were printed in the English language only up till 1955. From the Budget presentations of 1955-56 onwards, the Budget documents are inked in English and Hindi both.
9. The first-ever budget presented after independence, for the Union of India on 26 November 1947 was an interim budget. Presented by the first finance minister RK Shanukham Chetty, it was only a review of the economy and no new tax changes were proposed as the day of budget presentation for the next financial year was less than a 100 days away.
10. The 1998-99 budget was passed without any debate as there was a constitutional crisis where the then IK Gujral government was on its way to be dissolved. A special session of the parliament was called to pass the budget.
(With inputs from online media reports)