Watch: Nirmala Sitharaman takes part in ‘Halwa Ceremony’ ahead of interim budget

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman participated in the ‘Halwa Ceremony’ on Wednesday, a tradition observed before the annual budget presentation. This ceremony marks the commencement of a ‘lock-in’ period for officials before the initiation of the printing process for various budget-related documents. For the fiscal year 2024-25, Sitharaman is set to present the interim budget or vote-on-account, given that it is an election year. The full-fledged budget will be presented shortly after the formation of a new government this year.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman participating in traditional 'Halwa Ceremony' on Wednesday in North Block.(ANI)
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman participating in traditional ‘Halwa Ceremony’ on Wednesday in North Block.(ANI)

In a video shared by news agency ANI, Nirmala Sitharaman was seen serving halwa, symbolising the final stage of Budget preparation, Union minister of state for finance Bhagwat Karad also participated in the event held at North Block.

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According to a release from the ministry of finance, At the Halwa Ceremony, the Union Finance Minister was also accompanied by 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, Central Board for Direct taxes (CBDT); Shri Sanjay Kumar Agarwal, Chairman, Central Board for Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC); and Shri Ashish Vachhani, Additional Secretary (Budget), besides others officers and staff of the Ministry of Finance, involved in the Budget preparation and compilation process, were also present on the occasion.

As a part of the ceremony, Sitharaman conducted a tour of the Budget Press, overseeing the preparations and conveying her best wishes to the officials involved. The presentation of the Interim Union Budget 2024 is scheduled for February 1, 2024.

‘Lock-in’ period

The Halwa ceremony serves as a formal farewell for ministry officials and staff involved in crafting the Union government’s annual financial statement. Following this event, they enter a designated ‘lock-in’ period, isolating themselves within the ministry premises and disconnecting from their families to maintain confidentiality surrounding the final Budget document.

Officials are only allowed to leave the North Block after the finance minister presents the budget in Lok Sabha on February 1. In case of emergencies, the families of quarantined officials have the option to leave a message on a designated number, although direct communication is not permitted.

These strict measures stem from a leak incident that occurred in 1950.

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