Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggesting five ways in which the government can cut down its expenditure and allocate more money to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Gandhi wrote to the prime minister a day after he reached out to her and other Opposition leaders, asking for their suggestions on dealing with the crisis.
In her letter, Gandhi suggested that the government impose a complete ban on media advertisements – across TV, print and online – for two years, except advisories on Covid-19. “The government currently spends Rs 1,250 crore per year [not including an equal or greater amount spent by PSUs and government companies,” Gandhi wrote in her letter. “This will free up a substantial amount to alleviate the social and economic impact of Covid-19.”
She said that donations made to the PM CARES fund should be transferred to the ‘Prime Ministers National Relief Fund’ to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability. “It seems like a waste of effort and resources to have and create two separate entities for the distribution of funds,” she wrote.
The Congress president urged the prime minister to suspend the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista beautification and construction project. “I am certain that Parliament can function comfortably within existing historical buildings,” she wrote. Gandhi also said there must be a proportionate 30% reduction in expenditure budget [other than salaries, pensions and central sector schemes] for the government of India. “This 30% [Rs 2.5 lakh crores approximately] can be allocated towards establishing an economic safety net for the migrant workers, farmers, MSMEs and those in the unorganized sector,” she wrote.
In her letter, Gandhi also suggested that all foreign visits of the president, prime minister, Union ministers, chief ministers, state ministers and bureaucrats must be put on hold.
Gandhi assured the prime minister of her party’s support to the government in its fight against the pandemic.
On Monday, the Centre had announced that 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.
The number of novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 4,421 on Tuesday morning, and the toll increased to 114, according to health ministry figures. Amid high risk of spread of infection, the government is discussing how the 21-day nationwide lockdown could be lifted in a calibrated manner.