Congress President Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting measures to conserve money for the fight against COVID-19.

Ban govt ads on media cancel Central Vista project Sonia Gandhis 5 suggestions to PMPTI
news Coronavirus Tuesday, April 07, 2020 - 17:07

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting five measures to conserve money for the fight against COVID-19, including a complete ban on media advertisements by government and PSUs for two years and suspending the Central Vista beautification project. The suggestions came after Modi reached out to several opposition leaders, including Gandhi, on Monday.

In her letter to the prime minister, Gandhi also called for ordering a proportionate reduction of 30 per cent in expenditure budget (other than salaries, pensions and central sector schemes) for the government of India.

“This 30 percent (is. Rs 2.5 lakh crores per year approximately) can then be allocated towards establishing an economic safety net for migrant workers, labourers, farmers, MSMEs and those in the unorganised sector,” she said.

All foreign visits of the president, prime minister, Union ministers, chief ministers, state ministers and bureaucrats must be put on hold, she said. Exceptions can be made in case of special emergency or exigencies in national interest to be cleared by the PM. 

The Congress chief called for transferring all money under the 'PM Cares' fund to the 'Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund' to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability. 

“This will ensure efficiency, transparency, accountability and audit in the manner in which these funds are allocated and spent. It seems like a waste of effort and resources to have and create two separate entities for the distribution of funds. I understand that Rs 3800 crores approximately are lying unutilised in the PMNRF (at the end of FY-2019). These funds, plus the amount in PM Cares fund, can be utilised to ensure an immediate food security net for those at the very margins of society,” Sonia Gandhi said. 

Asserting that the need of the hour is austerity measures to divert funds to the fight against COVID-19, she said, "Impose a complete ban on media advertisements - television, print and online - by the Government and PSU's for a period of two years."

“The only exceptions should be advisories for Covid-19 or for issues relating to public health. Given that the Central Government currently spends an average of Rs. 1250 crores 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,” the letter said. 

Gandhi also called upon the PM to suspend the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista beautification and construction project forthwith. I am certain that Parliament can function comfortably within existing historical buildings, she said.

“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 can be postponed until this crisis is contained. This sum could instead be allocated towards constructing new hospital infrastructure and diagnostics along with equipping our frontline workers with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and better facilities,” Gandhi said. 

(With PTI inputs)