The Union Budget is one of the most important events in the Indian economy. It is the annual statement of the government’s revenue and expenditure for the next financial year. The Budget also reflects the government’s vision, priorities, and policies for various sectors and segments of the society.
But do you know some of the lesser-known facts about the Budget presentation in the country? Here are five interesting facts that you may not know about India’s fiscal plan.
The first Budget of independent India was presented in 1947
The first Budget of independent India was presented by R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, the then Finance Minister, on November 26, 1947. The Budget speech lasted for one hour and 35 minutes and focused on the challenges faced by the newly independent nation. The Budget also proposed a tax on income from property and a surcharge on income tax to finance the rehabilitation of refugees.
The longest and shortest Budget speeches were delivered by Nirmala Sitharaman
Nirmala Sitharaman, the current Finance Minister, holds the record for delivering the longest and shortest Budget speeches in the history of India. She delivered the longest Budget speech on February 1, 2020, when she presented the Union Budget for 2020-21. She spoke for two hours and 42 minutes, breaking her own record of two hours and 17 minutes set in July 2019, when she delivered her maiden Budget.
On the other hand, she delivered the shortest Budget speech on February 1, 2023, when she presented the interim Budget for 2024-25. She spoke for only 15 minutes, as the full Budget for the next fiscal year will be presented after the formation of the new government post the Lok Sabha elections.
The prime minister has presented the Budget on three occasions
The finance minister is generally entrusted with presenting the Union Budget every year. However, there have been instances when the Budget was presented by the prime minister of the nation. Pandit Jawaharlal Lal Nehru was the first prime minister to present a Union Budget. In 1958, then-Finance Minister TT Krishnamachari resigned due to his alleged involvement in the Haridas Mundhra controversy. Hence, Pandit Nehru was forced to present the Union Budget.
Again in 1970, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi presented the Budget after Finance Minister Morarji Desai resigned in protest of the nationalisation of 14 Indian private banks without consulting him. Similarly, in 1987-88, the then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi presented the Budget when Finance Minister VP Singh resigned.
The Budget was printed in Rashtrapati Bhavan till 1950
The Budget documents are currently printed in the basement of North Block, the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance. The printing process is carried out in utmost secrecy and security, with the staff involved being locked in the premises for about two weeks. However, this was not always the case. Till 1950, the Budget documents were printed at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The practice was changed after a leak in 1950, when a journalist published the highlights of the Budget before it was presented in the Parliament.
The Budget went paperless in 2021
Nirmala Sitharaman set another record in Covid pandemic-hit 2021 by presenting the first paperless Budget. She presented the Union Budget 2021-22 in digital format. The finance minister read her Budget speech in Parliament via a digital tablet. Upon completion of the speech, the Budget documents were made available through mobile apps. In 2023, Sitharaman further continued with the tradition of paperless Budgets. While in 2021 the paperless Budget was presented to minimise physical contact in the time of Covid-19, it has now become the practice.