After the Republic Day pomp and show on Rajpath, the focus in Delhi now shifts to the Parliament House. The Union Budget is always an eagerly-awaited event. A few years ago, it shifted from the end of February to its beginning. The capital is the home of central government offices where lakhs of employees work. The Budget is the most important policy statement of the government in any year and holds interest for all its employees.
The government’s family of employees has expanded over the years. The city’s trading and business community too has grown over the period and has an equal interest in the Budget. Almost every citizen of the capital has an interest in the Budget as he/she is either paying income tax or GST. The days when the Budget documents were available in print are forgotten now.
Delhites now sit in front of their television sets to hear the Finance Minister’s speech. The scene is similar, either at offices or homes, where most of the office work has shifted because of Covid-19 fears. The Budget was a matter of suspense for a whole month from Republic Day. Now, it follows the annual Parade quickly during the chilly winter spell itself.
This year, it will be presented in the Lok Sabha at 11 am on Tues day, the 1st of February. The Budget is, however, no longer a complex affair. It is decrypted and simplified in a matter of minutes on television, mobile internet, and personal computers. For those keen on document details, print newspapers remain a dependable source.
In the days of social distancing and fears of the Coronavirus, this is a big relief. One need not consult experts on the implications of the tax proposals. There is instant interpretation available on any aspect of the Budget. Parliament remains out of bounds for visitors because of Covid-19. Its sittings will revert to an earlier pattern when Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members sat in both Houses in a shift system. The Rajya Sabha will sit from 10 am to 3 pm and the Lok Sabha from 4 pm to 9 pm.
The one-hour gap in the afternoon will be used to sanitise the chambers and their connected passages and offices. The availability of the latest communication systems will help the MPs discharge their Constitutional duties without any difficulty. Till a few days ago, nearly 1000 employees of the Parliament Secretariat were infected with Coronavirus and were asked to isolate themselves. The mildness of the infections has saved the situation. Previous sessions have shown that Parliament is not deterred in its functioning by the Covid-19 challenge. The Lok Sabha sat much beyond its scheduled hours to complete its work. The two Houses of Parliament have set an example of working during the pandemic for other institutions.