Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Anurag Thakur, MoS for Finance, and other officials were clicked swirling a pot of sumptuous Halwa. All finance ministry secretaries, CBDT, CBIC chiefs and other key officials involved with the Budget and staff were a part of the Halwa event.
The "halwa" (dessert), prepared in a huge iron vessel (Kadhai), is served to all the ministry staff, as well as to the Finance Minister.
At the Halwa Ceremony, Smt. Sitharaman was accompanied by Union Minister of State for Finance & Corporate Affairs Shri Anurag Singh Thakur; Shri Rajeev Kumar, Finance Secretary; Shri Atanu Chakraborty, Secretary, DEA; Dr A.B. Pandey, Revenue Secretary; Shri Tuhin Kanta Pandey, Secretary, DIPAM; Shri T.V. Somanathan, Secretary, Expenditure among other officers of the Ministry of Finance.
Shri P.C. Mody, Chairman, CBDT; Shri John Joseph, Chairman, CBIC; Members of CBDT & CBIC; Shri Rajat Mishra, Joint Secretary (Budget), besides others officers and staff of the Ministry of Finance, involved in the Budget preparation and printing process were also present on the occasion. Later, the Finance Minister took a round of the Press and acquainted herself about the Budget printing process.
This is Sitharaman's second Halwa session, her first was in Jun'19. She had presented the Union Budget for 2019-20 on July 5.
The Halwa ceremony is a ritual post which the Finance Ministry begins printing the Budget documents. The printing process is performed with utmost secrecy. In fact, officials are confined to the North Block to maintain secrecy.
After the ceremony, employees involved in the Budget-making process are escorted to the basement of the North Block for a 10-day quarantine and they only come out once the Finance Minister presents the Budget in Parliament. This is done to ensure that there are no leaks of information about the Union Budget before its presentation.
Halwa, usually a sweet dessert has a number of variations and packs in several ingredients in the making of one. The 2020 Budget is expected to be sweeter from the previous versions and hence may need a few secret ingredients.
The 2020 budget is expected to see investment grow in education, infrastructure, renewable energy, railways, agriculture, irrigation, mobility, health, and water. The Budget announcement is also expected to solve the challenge of a sinking GDP growth. GDP growth crashed to 4.5 percent in the last quarter.
Other expectations include lower personal income taxation slabs with preliminary reports quoting anonymous ministry officials as hinting on a special package for Aam Aadmi. The 2020 budget is also expected to trim tax on long-term capital gains from equity investments. Expectations for the corporate sector could be limited, considering corporate tax rates were already slashed in 2019 from 30 percent to 22 percent for existing companies and to 15 percent for new manufacturers.
The Finance Ministry's Halwa was cooked on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed students on Pariksha Pe Charcha. Will this Budget be sweeter for Students?
Did Team Sitharaman add that Secret Ingredient? The to be announced Budget on February 1 will answer all questions.
Meanwhile, here is a video of the Halwa ceremony: