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Teams that make the Budget

There are two teams that are involved in the preparation of the Budget: one political, the other official.

The political team consists of:

*Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister;
*P Chidambaram, Finance Minister;
*Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman; and
*C Rangarajan, Economic Advisory Council Chairman.

The official-level team includes:

*Ashok Jha, Finance Secretary;
*T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister;
*Parthasarathy Shome the Advisor to Finance Minister;
*K M Chandrasekhar, Revenue Secretary;
*Dr Sanjiv Mishra, Expenditure Secretary;
*K Mohandas, Additional Secretary, Revenue;
*Mrs L M Vas, Joint Secretary (Budget), Department of Economic Affairs;
*S Krishnan, Private Secretary to Finance Minister;
*Rajiv Ratna Shah, member secretary, Planning Commission; and
*Arun Bhatnagar, member secretary of the National Advisory Council.

Secrecy

The level of secrecy that has been maintained to ensure that there is no Budget leakage is phenomenal, to say the least. A horde of the Intelligence Bureau sleuths have taken control of each and every movement and phone call of over a dozen officials in the ministry to ascertain that the Budget remains shrouded in secrecy till it is presented in Parliament.

Those who are being monitored include KM Chandrasekhar and Parthasarathy Shome, two executives in the Tax Research Unit (TRU) and five stenographers working on the computers delinked from the usual NIC hot link.

The IB surveillance scares those under its watchful eyes so much that they prefer not to speak to even their better halves and children lest they are accused of leaking out any Budget proposal.

Top secret

The most closely guarded secret is the timing of the printing of the finance minister's speech and the taxation proposals. Insiders say the ministry hands over the material for printing either on midnight of February 25 or early February 26 morning.

The Press Information Bureau officials admit that they are bundled into the printing press unit in the basement of the finance ministry on the night of February 25 to get cracking with the press releases to be put out on February 28. Old timers say that manual typewriters used to be placed in front of the printing press in the underground sections of the North Block till the mid-nineties. After the computer revolution, compact discs are sent to the press.

On the night when the data in the computer, to which nobody except the finance secretary has access, is transferred to CDs to send them for printing. IB, CBDT, and Central Board of Excise and Customs officials stand in front of the computer and sign the list of each file of the confidential papers that is copied on to the CDs.

Delhi Police protection is available to prevent any possible attack on the finance secretary as the exact Budget proposals are crucial and are known only to him.

IB everywhere

Every year around Budget time, IB asks Delhi Police to provide protection to the finance secretary. The IB chief is also in touch with him on a daily basis. An officer of the Joint Director rank supervises the IB network created at the Budget wing of the North Block. This officer keeps a close watch on the movements of junior or senior officials. Even the peons are under constant surveillance from the beginning of February.

A total of 24 officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police have moved to the North Block. It is a drill that is not known to many.

These officers split into four groups and report to the Joint Director (VX). Their prime duty is to keep a watch on a select group of 40-50 officers belonging to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and others engaged in the Budget preparations.

Since 2004 onwards, a powerful electronic jammer has been installed inside the finance minister's chambers as well as at the entry of the finance ministry corridors. The IB, thus, ensures that all mobile phones are jammed and no information is passed out.

Printing

All government publications are printed at the government presses, but not the Union Budget. There is a special printing press in the basement of the North Block to print the Budget. A tight security blanket is spread during the second half of February. Technical heads of the printing press are not permitted to go out of the press from February 24 onwards when they will get the most secret part of the Budget -- personal taxation -- for printing. Already other parts of the Budget are being printed by then.

IB Director P C Haldar has made two secret and surprise visits to the printing press as he thinks he is equally responsible, along with the finance secretary, for ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of the Budget. He will be making at least five to ten visits, at different intervals, to the ministry to ensure that the IB sleuths posted there remain alert.

A mock exercise has been conducted in the past by sending an unknown person with fake papers inside the finance ministry at eleven in the night, just two days before the printing of the Budget. And if he is not nabbed by IB men or by finance ministry officials, the entire IB team is kept under suspension for two years. Such is the alertness with which the IB functions for a fortnight.

The printing press itself is housed in a huge space in the depths of the North Block. The area is fully air-conditioned. Dr S Narayan purchased special printing machines just for the Budget in the year 2000, when he was finance secretary, to modernise the Budget printing process.

Quarantined

It is not only the finance ministry officials who are virtually locked in to maintain the secrecy of the Budget, but officials of five other ministries are also quarantined.

Among them are senior legal experts on taxation matters from the law ministry who are given the responsibility of checking the text and wordings of the taxation Acts. There are five law officers who attend the Budget meetings.

The Press Information Bureau officials selected for preparing press notes on the Budget to be distributed to the media as soon as the Budget is presented to Parliament are also locked up inside the ministry building just before the printing of the taxation proposals begins.

The chairmen of CBDT and CBEC also visit the printing press just a day before the Budget presentation.

Presentation
The presentation of the Budget is in the following order:

*Key to Budget
*Budget Highlights
*Budget Speech
*Budget at a Glance
*Annual Financial Statement
*Finance Bill
*Memorandum
*Receipt Budget
*Expenditure Budget
*Customs & Central Excise
*Implementation of Budget Announcements
*The Macro Economic Framework Statement
*The Medium Term Fiscal Policy Statement
*The Fiscal Policy
*Strategy Statement
*The Statement under Section 7 of the FRBM Act

Significance

The Union Budget defines the nation's financial projections by the Union minister for finance for the forthcoming financial year and a financial review of the current fiscal year. However, Parliament finally decides the Budget.

The imposition of any central government taxes and distribution of government expenditure from public funds cannot be possible without an Act of Parliament, which examines and reviews all statements to ensure the proper dissemination of government expenditures.

Basically it is the Lok Sabha, the House of the People, whose approval is mandatory for the Budget to come into effect.

Proposals for taxation and expenditures can be initiated by the Council of Ministers, specifically the minister of finance. However, according to Article 112 of the Constitution of India, a statement of estimated receipts and expenditure of the Government of India has to be laid before Parliament in respect to every financial year.
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