BH CORRESPONDENT, New Delhi: Tough times need tougher measures and sacrifices seems to be an idea that interim Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi wants the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to adhere to. On Tuesday, Gandhi sent out her observations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for suggestions in the fight against coronavirus.
Among them was a call to ban government advertisements, stop the “self-indulgent” Rs 20,000 cr “beautification drive” in Delhi and suspend official foreign tours among others.
Gandhi’s letter came a day after the Cabinet announced salary cut for MPs. “At a time like this, such an outlay (for the beauification) 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.
The money saved, 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.
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 Party chief also urged the government to make a “proportionate reduction of 30 per cent” in its own expenditure. “This 30 per cent (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.
Gandhi also suggested that all the financial inputs under the “‘PM Cares” fund be transferred to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to “ensure efficiency, transparency, accountability and audit”.