Cancel the "self-indulgent" Rs 20,000 crore "beautification project" in the heart of Delhi, suspend official foreign tours and stop government ads, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said today, responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's outreach to the opposition 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", which mostly served as a reminder of where the government can cut its own expenditure.
She urged the government to suspend the Rs 20,000 crore "Central Vista" 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," Sonia Gandhi wrote.
The money, she said, could instead be used to build new hospital infrastructure and diagnostics besides better equipping frontline COVID-19 workers.
Apparently referring to the salary cuts, the Congress chief urged the government to make a "proportionate reduction of 30 per cent" in its own expenditure and use the funds to help migrant workers and others in the unorganised sector.
She said "all foreign visits" should 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.
She also suggested a ban on TV, print and online media ads by the government for two years, with the exception of coronavirus-related information.
The Congress leader 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.
BDST: 1736 HRS, APR 07, 2020