|Gopalan (L), Gujral, Bose (R). FM's adviser Omita Paul is seen|
The job of preparing the Budget that begins in November every year is handled by DEA. But departments like revenue and expenditure give critical inputs to the document and become part and parcel of the entire Budget making process. The finance minister can undertake changes in the document till it goes for printing six days before it’s to be presented in Parliament. As high degree of secrecy is maintained, the Budget document is printed at the press located in North Block’s basement itself.
Most officers working in finance ministry have no idea whether there will be any tax cut or increase in excise duties! Also, a secretary in charge of one department does not know what’s in store for issues related to other departments. The one person who reads the Budget from top to bottom is the DEA joint secretary in charge of the Budget. He along with a few junior officials stay round the clock in North Block at least for the last 10 days. They need to ensure that nothing gets leaked before it’s presented in Parliament on the B-Day. The guys working in the printing press are not allowed to go home when the document is being printed. Packed lunch and dinner, brought from outside, are served there.But should there be such an aura of secrecy when many policy announcements and even hikes of petroleum prices are done outside the Budget? Once the Direct Tax Code is in place, there will be no surprise tax front in any future Budget. The reality is that in days to come, the Budget may no longer be such a high secret affair!