The traditional "halwa ceremony" ahead of Union budget was dropped for the first time this year in view of the pandemic situation in Delhi, the Union government said today. The budget -- paperless like the last time -- will be presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1.
In a statement today, the government said, "To mark the final stage of the Union Budget making process, sweets were provided to the core staff due to undergo "lock-in" at their workplaces, instead of a customary Halwa ceremony every year in view of the prevailing pandemic situation and the need to observe health safety protocols".
The "halwa ceremony" - organized by the Finance Ministry at its headquarters in the North Block basement every year - marks the beginning of the "lock in" period for officials. The Finance Minister stirs the dessert in a traditional kadhai and serves it to colleagues. It is later distributed to everyone who works on the budget, as a mark of recognition.
To ensure that the budget details are not leaked, there is a "lock-in" period for the officials involved, which started today.
"Budget Press, situated inside North Block, houses all officials in the period leading up to the presentation of the Union Budget. These officers and staff will come in contact with their near and dear ones only after the Budget is presented by the Union Finance Minister in the Parliament," the statement read.
While the Covid numbers in Delhi are on the way down, the Omicron variant of the virus was declared the dominant strain in Delhi earlier today.
The budget will also be allowed in a mobile app, which will provide complete access to 14 Union Budget documents. This will include the Budget Speech, Annual Financial Statement (commonly known as Budget), Demand for Grants, Finance Bill etc. as prescribed by the Constitution.
The bilingual (English & Hindi) mobile app is available on both Android and iOS platforms, the government said.