A throwback at India’s history of the Budget sessions

The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is gearing up to present the Budget 2022-23 on Feb 1

The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is gearing up to present the Budget 2022-23 on Feb 1
The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is gearing up to present the Budget 2022-23 on Feb 1

India’s journey of the Bahi-Khata – The Budget sessions

As a prequel to the Union Budget 2022, ahead of the Budget session, the Economic Survey will be presented in the Parliament on Monday, January 31, by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is gearing up to present the Budget 2022-23 on February 1.

On these sidelines, the history of India’s budget sessions is worth reminiscing as it involves interesting events.

The tradition of presenting the budget in India began in 1860 during British rule. Since independence, it has witnessed many keys and historical changes in the way of presenting the budget, its timing, date, and language.

Let’s go through the journey of budget in independent India.

First Budget of independent India

After August 15, 1947, the first budget of independent India was presented on November 26, 1947 by then Finance Minister R K Shanmukham Shetty, which covered a period of 7 months only and did not have a tax proposal.

India’s second Finance Minister John Mathai mentioned the Planning Commission and the Five Year Plan in his budget of 1949.

India’s third Finance Minister, C D Deshmukh, made several historic changes in the budget. He got the budget printed in Hindi for the first time breaking the stereotype of printing the budget only in the English language. Deshmukh, who was in charge of the Finance Ministry from 1951 to 1957 for the first time printed a copy of the budget in English as well as in Hindi.

Deshmukh brought major changes in the methods, nature, and goals of the budget. It was during his tenure that five-year plans were started in the country and a plan to expose black money was also brought.

The first woman to present the Budget of India

Indira Gandhi was the first woman to present the budget of India in Parliament. After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi withdrew the charge of the Finance Ministry from Morarji Desai in 1969, she took over as the finance minister. Upset over the incident, Morarji Desai resigned from the Indira cabinet.

Indira Gandhi then presented the budget in 1970 and with this, she became the first woman to present the budget. Although the record of presenting the budget in Parliament as Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru’s name comes first.

Finance Minister who presented the Budget most times

Morarji Desai, the former Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the country, who held the responsibility of the Finance Ministry in the government of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, holds the record for presenting the most budget 10 times.

Out of these, 8 times, he presented the annual general budget and 2 times the interim budget.

Finance Minister who put India on the track of liberalization through economic reforms

In 1991, the Congress-led government had come to the power at the Centre, and this was the first Congress government in independent India whose prime minister was not from the Nehru-Gandhi family.

P V Narsimha Rao made Manmohan Singh his Finance Minister and the Budget that was presented by Singh in 1991, during the period of economic crisis, later proved to be a milestone in the history of the Indian economy.

Manmohan Singh introduced economic reforms, started abolishing the ‘license raj‘ and during his tenure, India was seen running fast on the path of liberalization.

Finance Minister who changed the timing of presenting the Budget

Since the budget presentation started during the British rule, they had set a trend of presenting the budget in the Indian Parliament according to the timings of the British Parliament.

Hence the budget presentation time in India was kept at 5 pm which means it would be 11 am in London. This continued even after the independence of the country, for many decades.

It was only during the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha changed the time of presenting the budget and it was scheduled during the day instead of 5 pm in 1999. Since then, this tradition has been followed.

Finance Minister who changed the date of presenting the Budget

In the first term of the Narendra Modi-led government, a major change was made in the date of presentation of the budget. In 2017, the then (late) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the budget in Parliament on the first date instead of the last date of February and since then the budget is presented on February 1 every year.

In Jaitley’s tenure, the Railway Budget was also included in the General Budget, ending the tradition that has been going on for 9 decades.

India’s first woman Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Although Indira Gandhi was the first woman as a minister in charge of the Finance Ministry, Nirmala Sitharaman is the country’s first full-time woman Finance Minister.

Sitharaman is going to present her fourth budget on February 1. But along with being the first woman Finance Minister, many such records have also been registered in her name.

She went to the Parliament House in 2019 carrying budget papers in a bag of red cloth instead of a briefcase, thus ending another British-era tradition of presenting the budget in a briefcase or suitcase.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, a completely paperless digital budget was presented in Parliament for the first time in 2021. From this year, the tradition of printing the budget copy has stopped.

With this, Sitharaman became the first Finance Minister of the country who presented the budget from tabs instead of books and papers.

Also, before the budget, a ‘Halwa Ceremony‘ was traditionally organized every year in the Finance Ministry, but this time due to the threat of COVID-19 and its new variant Omicron, the Halwa Ceremony was not organized. This time instead of halwa, sweets were served to the employees.

The record of giving the longest speech in the history of presenting the budget so far is also recorded in the name of the current Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

While presenting the budget in the Lok Sabha in 2020, she made a new record by giving a speech of 2 hours 41 minutes. Earlier, this record was registered in the name of Jaswant Singh, another Finance Minister of the NDA government.

In 2003, Jaswant Singh gave a speech for 2 hours 13 minutes while presenting the budget as the Finance Minister of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

[With Inputs from IANS]

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