The traditional halwa ceremony that takes place a few days ahead of the Union Budget presentation has been dropped for the first time this year. 

The government said that the decision has been taken in view of the ‘prevailing pandemic situation’ and the ‘need to observe health safety protocols’. 

In an official release on Thursday, the centre 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”.

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The budget will be presented paperless like last time, by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1.  

“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. 

The halwa ceremony takes place in the Union Finance Ministry in the North Block in New Delhi. It is attended by the finance minister, the ministers of state, bureaucrats, and officials and staff of the ministry who are directly associated with the budget-making process. The halwa ceremony marks the last stage of the budget process. Previously, the ceremony marked the beginning of the printing of the budget documents.

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Last year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched the Union Budget mobile app on the day of the halwa ceremony which took place on January 23. The budget had moved to paperless mode for the first time due to pandemic restrictions. The app provides all the information related to the budget in a few taps. 

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Further, the number of people sequestered in the North Block was reduced in 2021 due to the pandemic. There was no printing of the budget documents and the printing staff did not need to be kept back.