New Delhi | Jagran Business Desk: In a first, the central government has decided to drop the customary pre-Budget 'halwa ceremony' this year amid fears over the Omicron variant of COVID-19. In its place, sweets will be distributed to core staff due for a "lock-in" at their workplace, said the Union Finance Ministry on Thursday evening.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget on February 1 in a "paperless form". Ahead of the presentation, the officials involved in making the Union Budget will be "locked-in" to maintain the secrecy.

"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," said Finance Ministry.

"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," it added.

Last year, Sitharaman - who will present her fourth Budget this time - had delivered Union Budget in paperless form for the first time. A 'Union Budget Mobile App' was also launched for hassle-free access of Budget documents by Members of Parliament (MPs) and the general public.

This year too, Union Budget 2022 would also be available on the Mobile App - which is bilingual and available on both Android and iOS platforms - after the process of Budget presentation has been completed on February 1 in the Parliament.

"The mobile App allows complete access to 14 Union Budget documents, including the Budget Speech, Annual Financial Statement (commonly known as Budget), Demand for Grants (DG), Finance Bill etc. as prescribed by the Constitution," said the Finance Ministry.

"The App can also be downloaded from the Union Budget Web Portal (www.indiabudget.gov.in). The budget documents will also be available for download by the general public on Union Budget Web Portal (www.indiabudget.gov.in)."

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma