For a second straight year, the annual Union Budget will go “paperless” this year, as the government has decided to desist from printing the copies in the wake of safety issues posed by the latest Covid-19 strain, an official source told FE.
Instead, the Budget documents will be made available mostly digitally, and only a few hard copies will be printed, he said. This is because over 100 people are usually required to stay for around a fortnight at the printing press in the basement of the North Block (which houses the finance ministry) until the Budget is presented. For the first time in independent India, the government was forced last year to consider halting this practice and look for alternatives, as it was difficult to maintain social distancing in limited space given the fears of Covid spread.
Budget documents are not printed outside for fear of compromising the secrecy around important tax or expenditure proposals. However, the soft copies of the Budget will continue to be made available. To ensure easy access of Budget documents by members of Parliament and the general public, the finance ministry had last year launched the ‘Union Budget Mobile App’.
This also means there will be no trucks loaded with Budget papers this time at the Parliament complex on February 1, the day when the Budget for FY23 will be presented.
Although the government had first decided to cut down on the printing of hard copies of the Budget in 2016-17 in a bid to go green, it stopped printing altogether last year for the first time. The government had initially reduced the number of copies distributed to journalists and analysts and then cut down on those made available to MPs.