Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday performed the annual 'halwa' ceremony at the Ministry of Finance located in the North Block, before the commencement of the confidential process of printing Budget documents.
The Union Budget for 2018-19 is to be presented in Parliament by the FM on February 1, with the session of the two Houses set to begin from January 29.
The ceremony, which was performed at the North Block here, marks the inauguration of the formal printing of different documents relating to the Union Budget.
As part of the ritual, halwa was prepared in a big kadhai (wok) and served to the entire staff in the ministry. Apart from Jaitley, those present at the ceremony were chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, and Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla, among others.
The halwa ceremony is held to maintain the secrecy of the Budget preparation process with the entire staff of the Finance Ministry not being allowed to leave the building until the presentation of the Budget.
After the celebration, over a hundred members of the Finance Ministry descended into the basement of the North Block, where the "Budget press" is located.
The printing of documents is guarded closely, as any leakage could lead to the government being accused of compromising on the privileges of Parliament.
Among the documents, a blue sheet of paper is said to be the most guarded piece of paper. It contains figures for the Budget, outlining the entire economic planning process.
The staff members are not even allowed to contact their near and dear ones through phone or any other form of communication, like email or phone. The basement has one telephone line, which can only receive calls. All communication is in the presence of intelligence officers. Only very senior officials in the Finance Ministry are permitted to go home.