New Delhi: A "halwa ceremony", the customary ritual that kickstarts the process of printing the budget documents, was held on Monday in the absence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is away in the US for a medical check up.
However, two Ministers of State for Finance - Pon Radhakrishnan and Shiv Pratap Shukla - and senior ministry officials were present at the ceremony in the basement of the ministry.
With this, officials involved in the preparation of the budget document can't leave the premises till the budget is presented in the Lok Sabbha on the appointed day -February 1.
"Ministers of State for Finance Pon Radhakrishnan and Shiv Pratap Shukla shared halwa with the senior ministry officials, including the secretaries, to mark the ceremonial beginning of printing the Budget 2019 documents," a senior ministry official said.
Finance-cum-Expenditure Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Financial Services Secretary Rajeev Kumar and Disinvestment Secretary Atanu Chakraborty also shared the sweet dish.
"Officials and staff engaged with the printing of budget documents stay back and are not allowed to go home or contact their family members to maintain the secrecy of the budget. However, some very senior officials are allowed to go home," he said.
Jaitley is expected to return home from the US to present the interim budget (vote on account) on February 1, his last before the general elections in May. The Budget Session of the parliament will be held from January 31 to February 13.