No hard copies of budget for journalists as government goes green

New Delhi: Making a departure from the tradition, the central government decided not to hand out hard copies of the 2016-17 general budget that was presented in the Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday.

However, the government’s endeavour to go green did lead to some chaos as neither journalists nor parliament staff were aware of the change of plan.

The general budget, an exhaustive document, was handed over to journalists in the parliament building from designated counters every year once it was presented in the Lok Sabha.

This used to be done in exchange of slips issued by the Press Information Bureau to accredited journalists.

This time, even as the slips were distributed as usual, the government decided not to hand out budget copies to journalists, as part of its bid to go green and save trees.

Parliament staff responsible for distribution of copies were also caught unawares of the change in plan as notices announcing the designated counters were put in place.

Once it was made known that the hard copies will not be distributed, the notices on the counters were replaced by ones announcing this decision.

“We do not know what happened. The budget copies came, but after the (Jaitley’s) speech began, we were told there will be no distribution of hard copies,” a Lok Sabha staffer, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

“It was decided after the cabinet meeting, and we were informed only once the finance minister’s speech started,” the staffer said.

Hard copies were though given out to parliament members, some of whom were equally surprised with the sudden decision by the government.

A junior minister, asked about the non-availability of printed budget copies, told IANS that he was unaware of the matter, and hoped that these will be given later.

The budget is a secret document till it is presented in the Lok Sabha and none of the details are revealed beforehand. The distribution of budget copies starts only after the finance minister completes his speech.

A government official told IANS that budget copies are usually printed two days before the presentation of the budget, and are brought to parliament on the same morning amid tight security.

The general budget runs into hundreds of pages, and has several booklets, including details of allocations to different ministries, plan and revenue expenditure and other financial details.