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Halwa ceremony returns as preparations of FM's 5th Budget enters final stage

Sitharaman is scheduled to present on February 1 her fifth straight budget for the fiscal year beginning April 1. Like the previous two, Union Budget 2023-24 will also be delivered in paperless form.

Halwa ceremony returns as preparations of FMs 5th Budget enters final stage
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and two junior ministers Bhagwat Karad and Pankaj Chaudhary along with senior officials of the finance ministry.

NEW DELHI: The ‘halwa’ ceremony, an annual ritual that heralds the Union Budget, returned after a year’s break with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday stirring a ‘kadhai’ to mark the traditional event.

The ceremony is an annual ritual in which traditional dessert ‘halwa’ is prepared and served to officials and staff members of the finance ministry who were involved in the preparation of the Budget.

It is organised every year in the basement of North Block, which houses the ministry in the national capital, and is attended by the finance minister and other high-ranking officials.

The ceremony was curtailed last year in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and instead sweets were distributed to the core staff. This year, the customary ‘halwa’ ceremony, performed every year before the ‘lock-in’ process of Budget preparation begins, coincided with Republic Day.

Besides Sitharaman, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary and Bhagwat K Karad and other senior officials including Finance Secretary T V Somanathan, Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth, DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey, and Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra were present at the ceremony on Thursday, visuals of the event shared on the official twitter handle showed.

Sitharaman is scheduled to present on February 1 her fifth straight budget for the fiscal year beginning April 1. Like the previous two, Union Budget 2023-24 will also be delivered in paperless form.

All the 14 Union Budget documents, including the Annual Financial Statement (commonly known as Budget), Demand for Grants (DG), Finance Bill etc. as prescribed by the Constitution, will be available on the “Union Budget Mobile App” for hassle-free access of Budget documents by Members of Parliament and the general public, the finance ministry said in a statement.

The app is bilingual (English & Hindi) and will be available on both Android and iOS platforms. It can also be downloaded from the Union Budget Web Portal, it said.

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What is the ‘halwa’ ceremony?

It is a gesture of appreciation for those who have worked on the Budget.

The finance minister stirs ‘halwa’ in a ‘kadhai’ to open the ceremony

They enter a ‘lock-in’ period, during which they stay in the basement of North Block, cut off from the world to maintaining secrecy around the final budget document

They emerge after the finance minister completes her Budget speech in the Lok Sabha on February 1

The basement of North Block houses a printing press that was traditionally used to print budget documents for 40 years from 1980 to 2020

Thereafter, the budget went digital with bare minimum documents printed and the bulk distribution happening via mobile app or on the website

Going digital also meant that the lock-in period has gotten shorter to just five days from the previous one that lasted up to two weeks

The Budget documents will be available on the ‘Union Budget Mobile App’ on both the Android and Apple OS platforms after the completion of the Budget Speech by the Finance Minister in Parliament on February 1, 2023

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Budget should be pet, poultry and industry friendly: Stakeholders

Chennai: Several industry bodies and executives have expressed their Budget wish list that ranges from pet friendly to the usual industry friendly. “With the 2023 budget, we expect an increase in the healthcare sector which is the need of the hour, especially for animals and some species that are on the brink of extinction. The healthcare sector is important for both humans and animals. The first and foremost area that needs to be focused on is an increase in financial support for veterinary services,” said Anushka Iyer, Founder and CEO, Wiggles.

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Diagnosis over, prescription needed in budget: Medical devices industry

Chennai: India sees large-scale imports of medical devices from China which defeats the government’s policy of self-reliance as well as closure of several Indian units, is the view of the medical devices makers. The 80 per cent import dependence can be cut down to 30 per cent with proper prescription, the industry lobby body said. The medical devices imports continued to grow at an “alarming” level by 41% in FY22. India imported medical devices worth Rs 63,200 crore in 2021-22, up 41 per cent from Rs 44,708 crore in 2020-21, said Rajiv Nath from Assn of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD).

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