The exercise of drafting the Union budget is a robust and complicated one. To begin with, North Block, the structure on New Delhi’s Raisina Hill that houses the finance ministry, goes into lockdown mode marked by the ceremonial ‘halwa’ ceremony that traditionally takes place on January 26 every year.
Bureaucrats then park themselves in the office with limited communication even with their families, given that the budget is one of India’s most guarded documents. In fact, the finance minister’s office has a small adjoining room for the nights that are spent in North Block by the key members of the team that prepares the financial document. Actually, the budget-making exercise typically begins six months before the document is presented, preceded by meetings with industry leads, social sector analysts, economists and so on.
While the budget itself is an outcome of intense deliberations and collaborations across ministries and departments within the finance ministry, the key members in the ministry include Sanjay Malhotra, the revenue secretary; Ajay Seth, secretary, of the Department of Economic Affairs; Tuhin Kanta Pandey, secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management; Vivek Joshi, secretary, Department of Financial Services; TV Somanathan, finance secretary; and V Anantha Nageswaran, the chief economic advisor.
However, sources have told Moneycontrol that while inputs have been sought from across all stakeholders, the three key people driving the budget document are Somanathan, Arvind Shrivastava, additional secretary to the prime minister, and PK Mishra, principal secretary to the prime minister.