No halwa ceremony this year; break from tradition
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No halwa ceremony this year; break from tradition

February 1, 2022

New Delhi: The traditional ‘halwa ceremony’ ahead of the Union Budget 2022-2023 was not observed this year. The custom that marks the final leg of the budget preparation exercise was replaced by distribution of sweets to the core staff.

In 2021, the ceremony took place nine days ahead of the budget presentation.

The decision to not hold the ceremony this year was taken by the Ministry of Finance keeping in view rising COVID-19 cases in the country.

“To mark the final stage of the Union Budget making process, sweets provided to core staff due for ‘lock-in’ at their work workplace instead of Halwa ceremony due to on-going pandemic and health safety concerns,” the Ministry said in a statement.

There are no historical traces of when the customary halwa ceremony began, but it has continued for decades now. It is for the first time in so many years that the Government decided to skip this ritual.

The custom marks the last leg of the budget process and is usually held at the Finance Ministry headquarters in North Block, New Delhi, which houses a special printing press in the basement. The tradition involves preparing the sweet dish, halwa, in a big ‘kadai’ (frying pot) and serving it to Finance Ministry officials directly associated with the budget making process, to acknowledge their efforts.

The ‘halwa ceremony’ holds significance as once the sweet dish is served, a large number of officials and support staff involved in the budget making and printing process are required to stay in the North Block of the Finance Ministry until the final presentation of the budget in Parliament. The officials remain cut off from their families and the outside world for almost 10 days. They are not supposed to even contact their close ones through any form of communication.

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The ‘lock-in’ is observed to ensure secrecy of budget details. Only very senior officials in the Finance Ministry are permitted to go home during this period.

Last year, employees were not kept in the North Block after the halwa ceremony as the printing of the budget did not happen due to pandemic precautions. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman read out the Union Budget 2021 from a tablet.

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