Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently took part in the traditional ‘Halwa Ceremony’ ahead of presenting the annual budget. This event signifies the beginning of a crucial phase for officials involved in the budget-making process.
Purpose of Halwa Ceremony
The ceremony initiates a ‘lock-in’ period for officials, ensuring confidentiality during the printing of budget-related documents. This time, Sitharaman is expected to present the interim budget for the fiscal year 2024-25, as it is an election year. The full-fledged budget will be presented after the formation of the new government.
Participation in the Ceremony
In a video shared by news agency ANI, Sitharaman and Union Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad were seen participating in the event held at North Block. Other key officials from the Ministry of Finance also attended the ceremony.
Accompanying Sitharaman were officials like Dr. T.V. Somanathan, Finance Secretary & Secretary Expenditure; Shri Ajay Seth, Secretary, Economic Affairs; Shri Tuhin Kanta Pandey, Secretary, DIPAM; Shri Sanjay Malhotra, Secretary, Revenue; Shri Nitin Gupta, Chairman, CBDT; Shri Sanjay Kumar Agarwal, Chairman, CBIC; and Shri Ashish Vachhani, Additional Secretary (Budget), among others.
Budget Preparation Tour
As part of the ceremony, Sitharaman toured the Budget Press, overseeing preparations and conveying her best wishes to the officials involved. The Interim Union Budget 2024 is scheduled for presentation on February 1, 2024.
The Halwa ceremony serves as a formal farewell for officials and staff involved in crafting the Union government’s annual financial statement. After the event, they enter a designated ‘lock-in’ period, isolating themselves within the ministry premises to maintain document confidentiality.
Strict Measures and Background
Officials can only leave after the finance minister presents the budget in Lok Sabha on February 1. This strict protocol stems from a 1950 incident when a leak occurred, leading to the current measures. Families have an emergency contact option, but direct communication is restricted during this period.