Ban government ads, stop the “self-indulgent” Rs 20,000 Crore “beautification drive” in Delhi and suspend official foreign tours, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said today, responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for suggestions in the fight against coronavirus.
The letter came a day after the cabinet decided on a 30 per cent salary cut for MPs. Conveying support for the decision, Sonia Gandhi offered what she called “five concrete suggestions”.
She urged the government to 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. I am certain that Parliament can function comfortably within the existing historical buildings. There is no urgent or pressing requirement that cannot be postponed until this crisis is contained,” Sonia Gandhi wrote.
Congress President and CPP Chairperson Smt. Sonia Gandhi writes to PM Modi suggesting various measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/77MzCYiokl
— Congress (@INCIndia) April 7, 2020
The money, she said, could instead be used to build new hospital infrastructure and diagnostics besides equipping frontline COVID-19 workers with Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) and better facilities.
Sonia Gandhi also suggested a complete ban on TV, print and online media ads by the government for two years, with an exception for coronavirus-related information.
“Given that the Central Government currently spend an average of Rs 1,250 crore per year on media advertisements (not including an equal or greater amount spent by PSUs and Government companies), this will free up a substantial amount to alleviate the economic and social impacts of Covid-19,” she said.
The Congress chief also urged the government to make a “proportionate reduction of 30 per cent” in its own expenditure. “This 30 percent (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, MSME’s and those in the unorganised sector,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi next suggested that “all foreign visits including that of the President, the Prime Minister, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, state ministers and bureaucrats” be put on hold. “The amount (which is around Rs 393 crores for just the Prime Minister and Union Cabinet’s trips in the last five years) can be utilised extensively in measures to combat Covid-19,” she remarked.
Mrs Gandhi also recommended that all the money under the “‘PM Cares” fund be transferred to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to “ensure efficiency, transparency, accountability and audit”.
She called it a “waste of effort and resources” to have and create two separate silos for the distribution of funds, pointing out that Rs 3,800 crore was lying unutilised in the PM’s relief fund.
“Every single Indian has made great personal sacrifices to fight this disease. They have complied with every suggestion, instruction and decision taken by your office and the Central Government. It is time that the Legislature and the Executive reciprocate this trust and good faith,” she wrote.