Sonia Gandhi also demanded that the funds collected under the PM CARES initiative be transferred to the Prime Minister National Relief Fund to ensure efficiency, transparency, accountability and audit in the manner in which these funds are allocated and spent.
Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi has demanded that the government scale down its expenditure budget by 30 percent in line with the cuts it has ordered in the salaries and allowances for Members of Parliament. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, her third since the nationwide lockdown was announced, the Congress chief referred to a conversation the PM had with her and sought suggestions from the party to tide over the coronavirus crisis.
Welcoming the government’s decision to cut salaries of Members of Parliament and utlising the fund to bolster the fight against coronavirus, Soniua Gandhi demanded that the government scale down its expenditure and transfer all money collected under the ‘PM CARES’ fund to the ‘Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund’ to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability.
“I am writing to convey our support for the decision taken by the Union Cabinet to reduce salaries for MPs by 30%,” she said in her letter listing five suggestions to develop a consolidated fund to fight the crisis. “It makes sense to order a proportionate reduction of 30 per cent in the expenditure budget (other than salaries, pensions and central government schemes) for the Government of India as well. This 30 per cent (i.e. Rs 2.5 lakh crores per year approximately) can then be allocated towards establishing an economic safety net for migrant workers, labourers, farmers, MSMSe and those in the unorganised sector,” she wrote.
Sonia Gandhi also demanded that the funds collected under the PM CARES initiative be transferred to the Prime Minister National Relief Fund to ensure efficiency, transparency, accountability and audit in the manner in which these funds are allocated and spent. “It seems like a waste of effort and resources to have and create two separate entities for the distribution of funds. I understand that Rs 3,800 crores approximately are lying unutilised in the PMNRF (at the end of FY-2019). These funds, plus the amount in the PM CARES fund, can be utilised to ensure an immediate food security net for those at the very margins of society,” Sonia said in her letter to the PM.
The Congress president also suggested that the government immediately suspend the Rs 20,000 crore ‘Central Vista’ beautification and construction project. “At a time like this, such an outlay seems self-indulgent to say the least. This sum could instead be allocated towards constructing new hospital infrastructure and diagnosis along with equipping our frontline workers with PPEs and better facilities,” she said.
Sonia further demanded that all foreign visits including those of the Prime Minister, Union ministers, Chief Ministers, state ministers and bureaucrats be put on hold and the amount be utilised in measures to combat the crisis. She also urged the Prime Minister to impose a complete ban on media advertisements by the government and PSUs for a period of two years, with advisories for issues relating to public health being the sole exception.
Sonia’s letter comes a day after the Modi government promulgated an ordinance to cut salaries of the MPs, Union ministers and the PM by 30% for a year. The government also announced to suspend the MP-LAD fund scheme for the next two years. Though Sonia refrained from sharing her views on the MP-LAD fund scheme, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala on Monday termed the decision a “disservice to the constituents” and one that “undermines the role of the elected representatives”.