As the Union Government is gearing up for the upcoming annual budget 2021-22, the Finance Ministry has decided to do away with the age-old tradition of printing the budget copies this year in view of the Coronavirus Pandemic. This is the first time since independence, that the budget will be paperless. However, giving the entire process a digital push, the government has decided to provide soft copies of the budget to the lawmakers. Also, Sources from ANI say that the traditional Halwa ceremony will be hosted 10 days prior to the presentation of Budget in the Parliament.
For the first time ever, the Budget will be paperless this year. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry has decided not to print copies of the Budget 2021. The Budget will be typed and available for all as a soft copy, online: Sources— ANI (@ANI) January 11, 2021
Keeping in mind, the Indian belief of eating something sweet before beginning any new job, the Halwa ceremony was celebrated by the Government officials before the printing of the budget papers. The Finance Minister would initiate the ceremony and then serve the dessert to the officers and staff members of the finance ministry.
Usually, the officials were required to stay at the basement of the printing press at the north block for around a fortnight to print the documents of the budget. The special North Block printing press is used to print the Budget documents and this is the basement where the Halwa ceremony has been conducted since 1980.
After the Halwa ceremony, around 100 officials are assigned the task of printing the budget. These officials, who are housed at the basement of the building where the printing process is underway, are not allowed to interact with people outside (emergency calls allowed) to maintain complete secrecy over the content of the budget. Those 100 officials are permitted to communicate with the external world only after the Finance Minister begins delivering the budget speech in the parliament.
Last year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman discarded the colonial custom of carrying the budget in a briefcase. Instead, she had carried the budget in a bahi-khata as a mark of promoting Indian customs and traditions. However, this year, the government has decided to ditch the bahi-khata too, as the copies of the budget will be circulated digitally to the parliamentarians.
According to PTI sources, the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs has recommended that the Budget session will be held in two parts beginning from January 29. While President Ram Nath Kovind is likely to address both Houses of Parliament on January 29, the Union Budget will be presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1. Appropriate protocols will be followed to counter the threat of Coronavirus. The first part of the Budget session will culminate on February 15 whereas the second part shall be held from March 8- April 8. This year's budget assumes significance in view of the pandemic and the consequential lockdown due to which businesses were shut, consumption slumped, investments took a hit and jobs were lost.