Friday, March 16, 2012

Batchmates’ Budget: How officials ensure that Budget does not get leaked

Gopalan (L), Gujral, Bose (R). FM's adviser Omita Paul is seen
IT’S a rare occasion that preparations of this general Budget were anchored by three IAS batch-mates. Call it a mere coincidence. RS Gujral, finance secretary in charge of revenue department, Sumit Bose, expenditure secretary and R Gopalan, secretary, department of economic affairs (DEA) are in fact 1976 batch IAS. The other two North Block secretaries, financial services secretary DK Mittal and disinvestment secretary Mohammad Haleem Khan are both one batch junior to them.
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!

1 comment:

  1. Why Omita Paul's photo along the 1976 IAS batch-mates? Mrs Paul is a 1973 batch retired IIS, not IAS. But she is more powerful than finance ministry secretaries. She is an adviser-- post retirement job.