The Union Budget of India, which is also referred to as the Annual Financial Statement, is an annual budget presented by the Government of India in the month of February so it can be materialised before the beginning of the new financial year in April. The budget is presented by the Finance Minister in Parliament and it foretells the roadmap of the Indian economy for the upcoming fiscal year beginning from April 1.
The first Union Budget of independent India was presented by RK Shanmukham Chetty on November 26, 1947, and until 1999 it was announced at 5:00 pm on the last working day of the month of February. The practice, which was inherited from the Colonial Era, was first changed by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who was the then Finance Minister in the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He had changed the timing of the presentation of the 1999 Union Budget to 11 am.
The date of the presentation also underwent a change when in 2017 then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of the NDA government announced that the Union Budget will be presented on February 1 instead of on the last working day of February.
A tradition that has been followed during the preparation of the Union Budget involves a Halwa ceremony. A week before the presentation of the budget in parliament, the printing of budget documents starts with halwa (a sweet dish) being prepared in large quantities and then being served to the officers and support staff involved. They remain isolated and stay in the North Block office until the Budget is presented. The ceremony is part of the Indian tradition of having something sweet before starting an important work.
Another tradition that was followed by Finance Ministers was the carrying of the budget in a leather briefcase. It was started by the first Finance Minister of India, RK Shanmukham Chetty, and it continued till 2018. On July 5, 2019, the tradition was changed when the current Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, broke the tradition by carrying the budget in a Bahi-Khata (red silk bag).
The Union Budget for the financial year 2020-21 will most likely be presented at 11 am on February 1, 2020, which is a Saturday, by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Usually, the Budget is not presented on a weekend but in 2015 the National Democratic Alliance government broke with the tradition and presented it on a Saturday. The budget will be presented in the backdrop of the slowing down of the Indian economy, and the Narendra Modi-led government is reportedly considering tax relief for the middle class. The government is also planning to benefit new home buyers this year, with reports stating that the finance minister might increase tax incentives for the new home purchases.
It will be the second Budget of both the Modi 2.0 government and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.