New Delhi: The customary ‘halwa ceremony’ that marks the commencement of the budget-making and printing process, was held on Saturday afternoon at the Union Finance Ministry headquarters at North Block in New Delhi. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State Anurag Thakur took part in the ceremony. Also Read - High Petrol, Diesel Prices Burden on Consumers; Tax Cut Should be Joint Call of Centre, States: FM

The Union Budget 2021-22 will be delivered in paperless form for the first time on February 1. Also Read - I-T Raid on Taapsee Pannu, Anurag Kashyap: Sitharaman Says Why It's an Issue Now, it Happened in 2013 As Well

What is halwa ceremony?

The halwa ceremony is performed every year before the “lock-in” process of Budget preparation begins.

The tradition, which goes back several years, involves preparing the sweet dish in a big kadhai (frying pot) and serving it to the entire staff in the ministry.

As per the tradition, after the sweet dish is served, a large number of officials and support staff, who are directly associated with the Budget making and printing process, are required to stay in the ministry and remain cut off from their families until the presentation of the Budget in the Lok Sabha.

The officials are not allowed to contact anyone through phone or any other form of communication. The “lock-in” which follows the halwa ceremony is observed to maintain the secrecy of the Budget preparation process. Only very senior officials in the Finance Ministry are permitted to go home.

However, in an unprecedented initiative, Union Budget 2021-22 will be delivered in paperless form for the first time this year, a government press release said today.

The decision to go paperless was taken as the printing process requires several people to stay at the press for around a fortnight. Over 100 people usually stay at the basement of North Block till the annual budget is presented, which is not possible this year due to the COVID-19 restrictions. While the Halwa ceremony was also expected to be cancelled, the government went on with it.

Budget app launched

Finance Minister also launched the “Union Budget Mobile App” for hassle-free access of Budget documents by Members of Parliament (MPs) and the general public.

“The mobile app facilitates complete access to 14 Union Budget documents, including the Annual Financial Statement (commonly known as Budget), Demand for Grants (DG), Finance Bill, etc as prescribed by the Constitution,” the Ministry of Finance said in a release.

“The App has a user-friendly interface with embedded features of downloading, printing, search, zoom in and out, bidirectional scrolling, table of contents and external links, etc. It is bilingual (English & Hindi) and will be available on both Android and iOS platforms,” it added.