As India awaits Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden Union Budget presentation on July 5, 2019, here’s a look at some very interesting facts and trivia about the previous budgets that you would never regret reading:
— The Budget was introduced in India on April 7, 1860 by East India Company. James Wilson, the financial member of Indian Council that advised the Indian Viceroy, presented that Budget. He was the same man who later founded what is today the Standard Chartered Bank and The Economist magazine.
— The first Union budget of independent India was presented on November 26, 1947 by R K Shanmukham Chetty.
— Morarji Desai presented 10 budgets, which is the highest count by an Indian finance minister, followed by P Chidambaram’s 9 and Pranab Mukherjee’s 8.
— Desai presented the Union budget twice on his birthday – February 29, 1964 and 1968.
— Manmohan Singh and Yashwant Sinha are the only two leaders who presented the Union Budget five times consecutively.
— Until the year 1999, the Union Budget was announced at 5 pm on the last working day of the month of February. This practice was inherited from the Colonial Era. It was Yashwant Sinha, the then finance minister in the NDA government, who changed the ritual by announcing the 1999 Union Budget at 11 am.
— Again in 2017, departing from the colonial-era tradition of presenting the Union Budget on the last working day of February, then finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that budget will now be presented on 1 February. Additionally rail budget, presented separately for 92 years, was merged with Union Budget.
— The printing of budget documents starts roughly 10 days before its presentation in the Parliament with a customary ‘Halwa ceremony’, during which the sweet dish is prepared and served to the finance ministry officers and support staff involved. The ceremony marks the start of the lock-in period to maintain budget secrecy, which means the staff remains isolated and stay in the North Block office until the Budget is presented in parliament.
— The first budget speech of independent India was only 39 paragraphs long. After that, budget speeches kept getting longer. Arun Jaitley’s first Budget speech, presented in 2014, is by far the longest Budget speech ever with 253 paragraphs and it went on for 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is excluding a four-minute break that he took for his health reasons.
— However, Pranab Mukherjee leads the list of finance ministers who have given longest budget speeches on an average. His speeches had an average of 202 paragraphs.
— When Pranab Mukherjee presented the 1982 budget as then finance minister, his speech lasted 1 hour 35 minutes. Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi later commented that “the shortest finance minister has delivered the longest budget speech”.