It has been three long years since the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be in power. Progress is observed throughout the country, various welfare schemes for the people Below Poverty Line (BPL) were incepted, environmental welfare programmes, foreign investments were brought to our country.

What’s with the budget briefcase? You may have pondered over this numerous times after witnessing finance ministers carrying a mysterious briefcase along with them before announcing every year’s budget. From P Chidambaram to Arun Jaitley, all FMs have been seen carrying a briefcase with them right before entering Parliament to announce a year’s budget. In fact, the tradition of carrying briefcases has been observed since 1947.

With the Union Budget 2018 right around the corner, the time seems right for you to know the details about the curious case of the budget briefcase. The briefcase is a result of a colonial legacy; a designed leather box, known as the “Budget Box” was presented to William Ewart Gladstone (Finance Minister) by The Queen. The same ‘Budget Box’ has been presented to UK’s successive ministers since 1860.

However, the question still remains: Why is the briefcase associated with Indian budget? It may be noted that the Latin word ‘Bulga’ meaning a little pouch or wallet.

It travelled through France where it was called ‘Bougette’, in the 15th century the word turned up in English as Bowgette.
By the end of the 16th century, the word budget became synonymous to the coveted container.

Coming to the further details about the association of this briefcase with Indian budget, it all started with RK Shanmukham Chetty, the man responsible for presenting independent India’s first budget speech in 1947, carried a briefcase along with him. To keep the legacy alive, the succeeding finance minsiters have continued to follow Chetty’s footsteps.

So as you now know the history of the Budget aka ‘Bougette’ in the United Kingdom, Britain’s colonial footprint led to this Leather Bag’s debut in the Independent India when India’s first Finance Minister RK Shanmukham Chetty presented India’s First Budget on 26th November 1947 and arrived with a leather bag carrying his set of Financial Papers that presented India’s Financial Innings. Apart from India, other British colonies like Uganda, Zimbabwe & Malaysia to follow carrying a briefcase to deliver the budget speech.

Although FM Shanmukham’s Budget Box has not been passed on to his successors; the Indian Finance Ministers have followed this colonial footprint and kept the tradition alive by carrying a briefcase on the budget day. The leather bags and briefcases used have differed in shades in the past, the most interesting being the one carried by President Pranab Mukherjee during the UPA rule when he was the then Finance Minister, he carried a Red Budget Box similar to that of William E Gladstone!

Source: 1,2

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