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Interesting Facts About the Union Budget

29 January 2022
5 minutes

Union Budgets have been a tradition. All Indians wait for February 1 each year as India’s Finance Minister makes their way to the Parliament to present the country’s Budget for the next fiscal year. 

Read on to interesting facts you didn’t know about the Union Budget and how the Budget is prepared every year.

Why is the Budget presented on February 1

Because that leaves just enough time to implement any legislative changes in the next financial year that begins on April 1 and ends the following year on March 30.

Where does the word ‘Budget’ come from

While the Budget is arguably one of the most critical incidents that affect all Indians alike, did you know the history behind it? Why the term ‘Budget’ has been derived from the French word ‘Bougette’, which translates to a ‘small leather briefcase’?

The famous ‘Halwa Ceremony’

After the Budget is sealed, it’s time for the Finance Minister, officials at the Finance Ministry, and staff members involved in the Budget to participate in a unique tradition – the ‘halwa ceremony’. The dessert, which marks the beginning of any auspicious occasion in Indian traditions, is made in a large vessel and served by the FM to all participants of the Budget preparation. Note that this decade-long tradition has been broken this year amid Covid-19 and instead, sweet boxes have been delivered to the North Block where all the officials are housed.

Did you know the 1950 Budget was leaked?

This act has been mandatory since 1950, after the Budget was leaked. To prevent any leaks, those directly involved in the Budget making process are moved to a basement in the North Block for ten days leading up to the Union Budget. They stay cut off from their families and friends until the Budget is presented on February 1.

First paperless Budget!

Ideally, the Budget copies are also protected in the same manner. However, this tradition too has been taken down with Budget 2021 going paperless with all copies being stored digitally. Union Budget 2022 is also a digital budget with no paper copies. Even though this was necessitated by Covid-19, it however ties in well with the Prime Minister’s Digital India mission.

First woman to present a Budget

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who presented the Union Budget in 1970 was the first woman to present the Budget. Mrs Gandhi handled the Finance portfolio as an additional charge.

Maximum Budgets presented by a female Finance Minister

Nirmala Sitharaman currently holds the record for presenting maximum Budgets in Indian history. So far, Sitharaman has presented three consecutive Budgets; Budget 2022 will be her 4th consecutive Budget.

Maximum Budgets presented by a Finance Minister

Morarji Desai has presented the Union Budget 10 times. He is followed by P Chidambaram (9 times), Dr. Pranab Mukherjee (8 times), Yashwant Sinha (8 times), and Dr. Manmohan Singh (6 times).

The first Hindi Budget

Until 1955, the Budget was printed only in English. The Congress-led Government in 1955 brought in the first Hindi Budget. Since then, the Budget has been prepared in both Hindi and English.

Longest Budget speech

inance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Union Budget 2021 speech is the longest in Indian history, which lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes. She broke her own record of 2 hours 17 minutes delivering the Union Budget 2020. Arun Jaitley earlier held this title, whose 2014 Budget speech was 2 hours 10 minutes long.

Change in the time of Budget presentation

Former Finance Minister Jaswant Singh in 1999 changed the time of the presentation of the Union Budget from 5 PM to 11 AM. The Budget presentation at 5 PM was a British tradition and was abolished in 1999.

Change in date of Budget presentation

Another British practice was to present the Budget on the last working day of February. Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley changed this practice in 2017 by making February 1 the date of the Budget’s presentation.

From the popular Briefcase to the ‘Bahi Khata’

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman replaced the decades-old briefcase used to carry the Budget speech (remember the French ‘bougette’ we mentioned up ahead in the article?) with a more Hindustani ‘bahi khata’ with the national emblem printed on it.

Indian PMs who have presented the Budget

Jawaharlal Nehru (1958), Indira Gandhi (1970), Rajiv Gandhi (1987).

‘Black Budget’

Presented by former Finance Minister Yashwantrao Chavan in 1973, the Budget was termed Black Budget due to the high budget deficit of Rs 550 crore brought on by the 1971 Indo-Pak War fought for the liberation of Bangladesh.

Who creates the Budget

The Budget is drafted each year with cumulative consultation between experts at the Ministry of Finance, NITI Aayog, and the spending ministries. However, the primary responsibility of creating the Union Budget each year is with The Budget Division of the Department of the Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance. 

Who else is consulted for the Budget

Multiple consultations between the Department of Expenditure, spending ministries, and Union Ministries are conducted to understand the status. The Department of Revenue and Economic Affairs also consults with key stakeholders like economists, experts, farming communities, FIIs, investor base, etc., for detailed insight into the expectations and the ground reality.

The Union Budget is indeed one of the most awaited documents in the country. Everyone has something to look forward to. While the layman might look for tax cuts, sectors might be looking forward to extra funding from the government or some states are looking forward to the launch of newer trains, the Union Budget aims to have something for everyone.

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