Ban ads for 2 years, Suspend Central Vista plan: Sonia Gandhi’s 5 suggestions to PM Modi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, offering five suggestions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Congress President’s five suggestions to the Government are: –

First, Impose a complete ban on media advertisements – television, print and online – by the Government and Public Sectors Undertakings (‘PSU’s’) for a period of two years, only exceptions should be advisories for Covid-19 or issues relating to public health.

“The Central Govt currently spends an average. of Rs1250 crores per year on media ads, this will free up a substantial amount to alleviate economic and social impacts of Covid-19,” she said.

Second, suspend the Rs 20,000 crore ‘Central Vista’ beautification and construction project forthwith. At a time like this, such an outlay seems self-indulgent to say the least.

“I am certain that Parliament can function comfortably within existing historical buildings. There’ is no urgent requirement that cannot 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 PPEs and better facilities,” Sonia said.

Third, it makes sense to order a proportionate reduction of 30 per cent in the expenditure budget (other than Salaries, Pensions and Central Sector Schemes) for the Government of India as well.

This 30 percent (i.e. ₹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, the Congress president said.

Fourth, all foreign visits including that of President, PM, Union Ministers, CMs, State Ministers and Bureaucrats must be put on hold in a similar fashion. Exceptions can be made in case of special emergency or exigencies in national interest to be cleared by PM.

Sonia said, “This 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.

Fifth, Transfer all money under ‘PM Cares’ fund to the ‘Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund’ (‘PM-NRF’). This will ensure efficiency, transparency, accountability and audit in the manner in which these funds are allocated and spent.

The letter came a day after the cabinet decided to slash salaries of MPs by 30 per cent.

Sonia conveyed support for the decision and said, “I supported the government’s decision to reduce salaries of MPs by 30 per cent. Austerity measures which can be used to divert much-needed funds to the fight against Covid-19 are the need of the hour.”