The Congress on Friday condemned the Centre’s decision to freeze the dearness allowance of pensioners, government employees and soldiers in order to fund the fight against the coronavirus. The Congress said the government should instead stop “wasteful expenditure” on the bullet train and the Central Vista Project.

“It is insensitive and inhumane on the part of the government to cut the DA of central employees, pensioners and jawans who are serving the public while fighting coronavirus, instead of suspending the bullet train project and the Central Vista beautification project of lakhs or crores of rupees,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted in Hindi.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also lashed out at the government. In a digital press briefing, he asked the Centre to stop the bullet train and Central Vista projects instead of taking away money from the soldiers. Surjewala said that if the government needs money, it should curtail the items of “wasteful expenditure” from the 2020-’21 Union Budget and instead spend the amount on combating Covid-19.

Surjewala pointed out that the cut in the savings interest rates the State Bank of India announced last month would mean a loss of over Rs 9,400 crore for middle-class investors.

“Despite the coronavirus crisis, the Modi government stopped neither the Rs 23,000 crore Central Vista project and the Rs 1,10,000 crore bullet train project, nor has it announced a 30% reduction in government expenditure,” Surjewala said. The Congress leader claimed that a 30% reduction would have freed Rs 2.5 lakh crore for combating the coronavirus. Surjewala said this shows the misplaced priorities of the government.

“Government of India has not spared our armed forces also, [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi ji has deducted Rs 11,000 crore rupees of 15 lakh serving armed forces personnel and nearly 26 lakh military pensioners,” Surjewala added.

However, Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Prakash Javadekar dismissed the Congress’ criticism, PTI reported. He claimed that while the entire country backs the government in combating Covid-19, the Congress has been fighting the government. “Nobody except Rahul Gandhi and his gang are opposing what government is doing to combat coronavirus,” he added.

India has so far reported at least 23,077 cases of Covid-19, and 718 people have died, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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