Union Budget 2021-22: For the first time in independent India, the Budget for FY22 will go “paperless”, as the government intends to refrain from printing the copies in the wake of the safety issues posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, an official source told FE.
Still, the government will likely undertake the traditional “halwa ceremony” that takes place every year before the printing of the Budget copies, said the source. Apart from the finance minister, the minister of state for finance and top bureaucrats in the ministry, this ceremony is usually attended by all the people involved in the Budget-making and printing process.
Although the central 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, this will be for the first time when printing could be stopped altogether.
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. The pandemic has forced the government to consider halting this practice and look for alternatives, as it would be difficult to maintain social distancing in limited space. Budget documents are not printed outside for fear of compromising the secrecy around the proposals. However, the soft copies of the Budget will continue to be made available.
This year there will be no trucks loaded with Budget papers at the Parliament complex on the day of Budget, i.e; February 1. Similarly, the finance minister doesn’t need to carry either a bahi khata or a briefcase to carry the Budget documents. In 2019, finance minister Nirmala Sitharman abandoned the practice of carrying a leather briefcase and instead chose the more traditional bahi khata.