The 'halwa ceremony', which marks the final stage of the Union Budget-preparation, took place on Thursday, 26 January at the Finance Ministry headquarters in New Delhi. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman distributed halwa or an Indian sweet dish to the ministry’s staff.
Last year, the ceremony was muted, keeping in line with the health safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and sweets were distributed to the staff.
This year's ceremony, however, was attended by Ministers of State (MoS) for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary and Dr Bhagwad Kishanrao Karad, along with Secretaries of the Finance Ministry, Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).
Besides, senior officials and members of the Union Budget Press inside the North Block were also present at the ceremony. The North Block houses the printing press on which documents related to the Budget have been printed from 1980 till 2020.
In 2021, the Budget was presented in the paperless form for the first time, keeping in mind pandemic related restrictions, and pushing for digitization.
What Is the Significance of This Ceremony?
The 'halwa ceremony' assumes significance because after it is over, all officials of the finance ministry who were involved in the Budget-making process are supposed to be 'locked in' at the North Block of the finance ministry till the Budget is presented in Parliament on 1 February.
The officials will have to remain cut off from their families for nearly a week till the Budget is presented so as to maintain absolute secrecy and prevent any leaks.
The finance minister is the only one who is allowed to walk in and out of the building.
The ceremony also recognises the effort of the officials who are involved in the long-drawn Budget-making process.
This year’s Budget will be the third paperless Budget to presented in Parliament. After the completion of Sitharaman’s speech, the Budget documents will be available in both English and Hindi languages on the ‘Union Budget Mobile App’, which is available on both the Android and Apple OS platforms, the Finance Ministry said.