All MPs, including Cabinet ministers, will take salary cuts of 30% for a year to help the government fight the coronavirus pandemic and its adverse impact on the economy. While this was done through an ordinance to be promulgated by the Centre, the president, vice president, and all state governors also decided to give up 30% of their salaries voluntarily, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said on Monday.

The money will go towards the Consolidated Fund of India.

Javadekar said the Union Cabinet has approved the ordinance amending the salary, allowances and pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, to reduce allowances and pension by 30% from April 1 for a year. He said the measure was being taken as part of the parliamentarians’ “social responsibility”.

The Union Cabinet also suspended the MPs’ Local Area Development Scheme for two years in order to manage the financial burden of the pandemic, Javadekar said. A sum of Rs 7,900 crore from the scheme will now go to the Consolidated Fund of India, he added.

Javadekar said the government is monitoring the global coronavirus situation every minute. “Decisions are taken ultimately in nation’s and people’s interests,” he said when questioned about the lockdown. “That decision will be declared whenever right time is there.”

Read today’s live updates on the coronavirus here.

Opposition objects to MPLADS suspension

In response, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the party supported the salary cuts for MPs, but not the decision to suspend the MPs’ Local Area Development Scheme, or MPLADS. He said the funds given to MPs under the scheme were not their personal funds, but meant for the development of their constituencies.

“Please note that MPLAD is meant to execute developmental works in the constituency,” he said. “Suspending it is a huge disservice to the constituents and will undermine the role and functions of MP.”

Surjewala also said: “Cut MPs’ salaries for sure, but if the government cuts its expenses by 30%, then lakhs of crores of rupees will get added to the fight against coronavirus.”

However, Jairam Ramesh, also a Congress leader, supported the decision to suspend MPLADS. “I have been arguing for long that the approximately Rs 7,000 crore given to MPs and MLAs annually for development works should be used as a corpus for State funding of elections,” he tweeted.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari also said suspending the MPLADS was an overstretch. “I think MPLAD Funds need to be restored,” he said, welcoming the idea to cut salaries. “Please re-think it once again. It is a knee jerk reaction much like the lockdown at a 4-hour notice. It will hurt poor most.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury tweeted: “There is enough evidence that #COVID19 is best fought at the state and local level. By suspending MPLADS, govt is taking away expenditure which would have attended to unique requirements of an area. This centralisation goes against federalism, development, will weaken our fight.”

Earlier in the day, Modi praised the maturity of Indians for cooperating during the lockdown. In an address to his party workers on the outfit’s 40th foundation day, Modi said India took timely steps against the coronavirus since it had understood the seriousness of the disease. He added that it would be a long war against the disease and that people could not give up.

The total number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 4,067 on Monday and the toll reached 109, the health ministry said. This was India’s largest single day spike – 693 cases and 32 deaths – in the last 24 hours.