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The Changing Traditions in Union Budget of India

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The Union Budget of India is the annual budget of India. Until 2016 it was presented on the last working day of February by the Finance Minister in Parliament which is now presented on February 1. Additionally Rail Budget, presented separately for 92 Years, merged with union budget.

The first union budget of independent India was presented by R. K. Shanmukham Chetty on 26 November 1947. Morarji Desai has presented 10 budgets which is the highest count followed by P Chidambaram’s 9 and Pranab Mukherjee’s 8.

R.K.Shanmukhan Chetty, Indipendent India’s First Finance Minister
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Until the year 1999, the Union Budget was announced at 5:00 pm on the last working day of the month of February. Yashwant Sinha, the then Finance Minister of India in the NDA government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, changed the tradition by announcing the 1999 Union Budget at 11 am. The tradition started from 2001.

Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during Halwa Ceremony

The printing of budget documents starts roughly one week ahead of presenting in the Parliament with a customary Halwa ceremony in which halwa is prepared in large quantities and served to the officers and support staff involved. The halwa is served by the Finance Minister. This ceremony is performed as a part of the Indian tradition of having something sweet before starting an important work. However, this year for the first time halwa ceremony is dropped in view of the COVID 19 pandemic situation in Delhi.

Former Finance Minister’s carrying the budget in a Leather Briefcase
Nirmala Sitharaman with Bahi Khata

Until 2018, as a part of tradition, Finance ministers carried the budget in a leather briefcase. The tradition was established by the first Finance minister of India, Mr. RK Shanmukham Chetty. On 5 July 2019, Nirmala Sitharaman, broke this tradition by carrying the budget in a Bahi-Khata. On 1 February 2021, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the first paperless budget and this is going to be continued this year too.

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