Budget through the history of independent India

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The current Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is a woman, but before her another woman leader has presented the budget of India in the Parliament…reports Santosh Kumar Pathak

The history of India’s budget sessions is worth reminiscing as Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is gearing up to present the Budget 2022-23 on February 1. The events are quite interesting, and many key and historical changes were witnessed. The tradition of presenting the budget in India began in 1860 during the British rule.

Since the country’s independence in 1947, there have been many interesting 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

After India attained independence August 15, 1947, the first budget of independent India was presented on November 26, 1947 by then Finance Minister RK Shanmukham Shetty. He was also lawyer and economist. It did not have a tax proposal. Only a period of 7 months was covered.

Budget printed in Hindi

CD Deshmukh, India’s third finance minister, is credited with making several historic changes in the budget.

It was during the tenure of Deshmukh, who took charge of the Finance Ministry from 1951 to 1957, that for the first time a copy of the budget was printed in English as well as in Hindi.

Earlier, the budget copy used to be printed only in English language.

Along with this, Deshmukh is also remembered as the Finance Minister who brought about 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.

However, before him, the country’s second Finance Minister John Mathai had mentioned the Planning Commission and the Five Year Plan in his budget of 1949.

The first woman to present the budget

The current Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is a woman, but before her another woman leader has presented the budget of India in the Parliament.

Indira Gandhi was the first woman to present the budget of India in the Parliament.

In 1969, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi withdrew the charge of the Finance Ministry from Morarji Desai, the Deputy Prime Minister and became the Finance Minister of her own government.

Angered by this, Morarji Desai resigned from the Indira cabinet.

In such a political situation, in addition to being the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, who was also handling the Finance Ministry, 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 had made his name before him in 1958.

FM who presented most budget

Morarji Desai holds the record for presenting the most number of budgets in the country.

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.

Morarji Desai (Wikipedia)

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

Putting India on track of liberalization

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 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 liberalisation.

Finance Minister who changed the timing

The trend of presenting the budget in India was started during the British period, so he had also fixed the time of presenting the budget in the Indian Parliament according to the Parliament of his country.

When it is 11 a.m. in the day in London, it is 5 p.m. in the evening in India. That is why, the British government used to present the budget in the Parliament of India at 5 p.m. in order to tell the budget of India to its MPs at 11 a.m.

Even after the Independence of the country, for many decades, the budget was presented in the Lok Sabha only at 5 in the evening.

Yashwant Sinha addressing a press conference

But during the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha changed the time of presenting the budget and for the first time in the history of the country presented the budget in the day instead of 5 p.m. in 1999, and since then this tradition has been followed, and is being done.

The current Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will also present the budget in the Lok Sabha on February 1 at 11 a.m.

FM who changed the date of presenting 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.

First woman FM

Although Indira Gandhi was the first woman as a minister in charge of the finance ministry, who presented the budget in 1970, the record of becoming the country’s first full-time woman finance minister is in the name of Nirmala Sitharaman.

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, due to which she has also joined the list of finance ministers who brought historic changes in the budget.

Sitharaman changed another British-era tradition, presenting the budget in a briefcase or suitcase.

She went to the Parliament House in 2019 carrying budget papers in a bag of red cloth instead of a briefcase.

In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, a completely paperless digital budget was presented in Parliament for the first time in 2021.

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.

This time also, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is going to present a completely paperless digital budget.

This budget session of 2022-2023 will also be remembered for not doing ‘Halwa Ceremony’.

In fact, before the budget, a ‘Halwa Ceremony’ was traditionally organised 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 organised.

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.

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