The Union Budget 2021 was presented in a paperless form for the first time, with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seen holding a ‘Made in India tablet’ in a red case instead of the traditional ‘brown briefcase’ or the red cloth swadeshi ‘bahi-khata.

Every year, while delivering the Union Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman always attempts to make some fresh changes breaking away from the tradition of presenting the Union Budget. Just like many things over the past year, the Union Budget of 2021 too has gone digital this year. In 2021, for the first time since the independence, the Union Budget has become paperless. This means no Budget Briefcase, no Bahi-khata this year, the journey of Budget papers has now destined to “Made in India tablet”.

The Union Budget was presented in a paperless form for the first time, with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seen holding a Made in India tablet in a red case instead of the traditional ‘brown briefcase’ or the red cloth swadeshi ‘bahi-khata’. The Budget presentation this year was made completely paperless and the decision is known to be taken in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The ‘bahi-khata’ (a ledger wrapped in red cloth) used to present the budget since 2019, has been completely removed from this year as a move to reinforce Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Digital India’ mission. In 2019, Sitharaman replaced the tradition of carrying the budget papers in a briefcase by bahi-khata saying the Modi government was not a “suitcase-carrying government”, which was seen as a snap against the Congress’ “suit-boot sarkar” jibe.

Made in India tablet: Budget 2021 adopting tech in a big way

The use of Made in India tablet for the budget presentation of 2021 has a dual push for India’s digital aspirations. This move of using a tablet for budget presentation by the government has made a strong word in favour of the homegrown tech innovation and also honoured Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s loud and clear call towards the AtmaNirbhar Bharat – with the government pushing for focus and funds on Made in India brands.

Apart from this Made in India tablet, the Central government also unveiled the Union Budget mobile app to enable MPs and people to access Budget documents digitally. The app aims to provide easy and hassle-free access to all Budget 2021-related information and documents to everyone in the country.

The year 2019: Swadeshi Bahi-khata replaced leather briefcase

It was in 2019 when the Finance Minister ditched the long-standing tradition of carrying budget documents in a leather briefcase and went all swadeshi with a ‘bahi-khata’. In her previous two budgets, Sitharaman had caused quite a buzz by ditching the briefcase for a bahi-khata and this year the Finance Minister decided to replace the traditional style of ‘Bahi-Khata’ with a digital tablet.

Sitharaman in her first budget in 2019 replaced the leather briefcase that had been for decades used for carrying budget documents with a traditional red cloth ‘bahi-khata’. The tradition of carrying the Budget briefcase was handed over to us by the British. India’s Budget briefcase was a copy of the ‘Gladstone box’ that is used in the British budget. In Britain, the budget briefcase is passed on from one Finance Minister to another, whereas in India Finance Ministers used to carry different briefcases.

Sitharaman was the first Finance Minister to defy this tradition of carrying the Indian Budget papers in the leather briefcase.

From ‘Bahi-khata’ to ‘Budget app’

In the month of January this year, the Central government despite printing voluminous budget documents launched the ‘Union Budget Mobile App’ so that the members of Parliaments (MPs), media, and the general public can easily access the Budget documents on their mobile phones. The App is developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) under the guidance of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and will be available both in Hindi and English on both Android and iOS platforms.

The app was launched last month during the Halwa Ceremony that marked the launch of the printing exercise for the budget.