New Delhi | With just a week to go, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s third Budget has entered the last mile run cloaked in secrecy and apart from his statement that it will not be populist and would address the problem of under-investment in the economy, very little is known about it. Though the customary secrecy has enveloped parts of the North Block, this year is the first when secretaries in the Finance Ministry have taken to YouTube to communicate the direction of the Union Budget 2016-17. Making use of its own YouTube channel, the ministry also showcased the importance of budget and traditions like finance minister carrying his Budget in a leather briefcase.
Usually teeming with journalists, the wing of North Block is strictly off limits to them and general public since beginning January. With special X-ray scan, everything that goes in or out of North Block is being monitored. Also powerful mobile phone jammers block calls to prevent leakage of any information. Internet connections in the offices of senior officers and staff involved in the process are shut-down and the Budget wing of North Block is no less than a war room.
Highest level of security measures are enforced at North Block till the Budget is presented in Lok Sabha. The Intelligence Bureau (IB), Delhi Police and CISF are all involved in security of this zone. The final lap began on Friday with the traditional halwa ceremony, which marked the commencement of the printing process of documents of Union Budget 2016-17.
The ceremony does not involve any puja or worship. Jaitley and officials associated with the preparation of the Budget and its printing gathered at the printing press situated in the basement of the North Block, exchanged wishes and distributed halwa – the dessert made of semolina and sugar, marking the beginning of Budget printing. And so has begun the countdown to budget day Parliament’s most important calendar event. Budget is usually presented on the last day of February and this year it will be on Monday, February 29, few weeks before states like West Bengal, Kerala and Assam go to polls.