The Union Budget which defines the nation's financial projections for the forthcoming year and a review of the current financial year is guarded with the highest level of security to ensure that there is no leak of information before the Union Finance Minister makes the announcement at 11 am tomorrow.
The North Block Secured
The Ministry of Finance, housed in the North Block of Secretariat Building in New Delhi is given the highest level of security three weeks before the budget. The Intelligence Bureau (IB), Delhi Police and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) are all involved in security of this zone.
Although guarded from the month of November, when Budget planning begins, the security is tightened in the month of January.
It begins with the Halwa Ceremony
The "halwa ceremony" is a ritual that marks the beginning of the budget printing process. The 'halwa', a sweet dish is served to the entire staff of the finance ministry before officials involved with the printing of the budget are locked in the printing press room in the basement of North Block until the budget is presented.
The halwa ceremony this year took place on Saturday, the 20th of January 2018.
A "blue sheet" containing key numbers of the budget is guarded with utmost care. Even the finance minister is not allowed to keep it. It is entrusted in the hands of the budget joint secretary.
The first draft of this blue sheet is made a few weeks before budget. This document is the bedrock of all budget calculations.
The lock down of printing press
After the halwa ceremony, up to a 100 officials are locked into an area in the basement of the North Block which houses two printing presses. They do not have any contact with the outside world till the day of budget.
These individuals perform printing, proof reading and translation. It is an air-conditioned room with modern printing machines.
There are no phones in the room for outward communication. Elaborate lodging and food arrangements are made for the officials. In case of emergency, the person will be taken to a room where he can make calls in the presence of an intelligence officer.
Only the finance minister has the right to enter and exit the protected zone but without a cellphone.
The Budget Speech
Finance Minister's Budget Speech is only finalized hours before the budget announcement.
No Press, No internet
From the start of January the North Block is strictly off limits for the press. Powerful X-ray scanning machines are used to monitor everything that comes and goes out the North block by the IB. Mobile phone jammers are installed to block phone calls. Internet connections of staff and senior officials are cut. Phone call made through landlines installed are closely monitored.