Before the Finance Minister presents the Budget to an expectant nation, close to around 200 people spend their days and nights in a basement in North Block amid tight security. For 10 days, they remain isolated from the rest of the world. They help process Budget documents prepared by the Finance Minister along with the Chief Economic Advisor and senior bureaucrats in the Ministry.
A statement made by the Finance Ministry 10 days before the Budget presentation offers an indication of the nature and extent of the iron- clad secrecy involved in the process. It says, ‘More than 100 officials involved in making the Union Budget 2015-16 will be locked in from tomorrow in the Budget Press in North Block and will remain there till the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech is over in Lok Sabha on 28th February, 2015.’ To maintain the secrecy of the Budget preparation process, there is a ‘lock-in’ of the officials involved in the proceedings. Budget Press in North Block houses all these officials in the period leading up to the Union Budget’s presentation in Parliament by the Finance Minister. In addition to these 100 officials, others like the Press workers are also housed there.
For the first time, those confined in North Block had access to TV this year. The inmates typically have access to newspapers and journals, but they are not allowed any access to phones and internet. While the Budget is being prepared, even peons in the Budget wing are under strict surveillance. Delhi Police also plays a part in beefing up the security infrastructure during the period. Top cops move into North Block as part of the drill. Even the printing press staff is expressly forbidden to step out of the basement from the last week of February. There is always a doctor on call to respond to any medical emergency during this crucial stage of budget- making.