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NEW DELHI : Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday gave five points of advice to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to generate financial resources to battle the economic fallout of the covid-19 pandemic in the country. Gandhi’s letter came a day after the Centre announced 30% pay cut for lawmakers, a move that the Congress chief said her party backs.

The measures that Gandhi suggested to Modi include imposing a complete ban for two years on media advertisement, television, print and online, by the government and public sectors undertakings (PSUs) with the exception of those on covid-19, suspending the central vista beautification and construction project, and transferring all money under ‘PM-CARES’ fund to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).

“I am writing to convey our support for the decision taken by the Union cabinet to reduce salaries for MPs by 30%. Austerity measures, which can be used to divert much needed funds to the fight against covid-19, are the need of the hour. In this spirit, I am writing to offer five concrete suggestions. I am certain you will find value in them," Gandhi said in the letter to Modi dated Tuesday.

This is the third such letter Gandhi has written to Modi over the last fortnight to give suggestions over the covid-19 pandemic. Her first suggestion in Tuesday’s letter was over ban on media advertisements, which she said could free up a substantial amount to help the government take socioeconomic measures.

“Suspend the 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 the existing historical buildings. There is no urgent or pressing requirement that cannot be postponed until this crisis is contained," Gandhi said registering a strong opposition to the planned project. The money instead could go to constructing new hospital infrastructure and providing personal protection equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers, she said.

Apart from Congress, opposition leaders from Left Parties and Trinamool Congress too have demanded that the project should be suspended in the view of the pandemic outbreak. Sitaram Yechury on Monday had questioned why the union government is not abandoning the project and whether it was being given more priority than lives of people.

Responding to statements made by Gandhi on Tuesday, BJP’s senior leader and vice president Prabhat Jha wrote on Twitter saying that the Congress president should not have ‘pessimistic’ views in a situation like this.

Jha added that her suggestions over PMNRF and PM-CARES was unfounded and he questioned what was the difference between them according to her. Last week, a war of words broke out between Congress and ruling BJP after Gandhi said the national lockdown was implemented in an unplanned manner. Senior leaders of the BJP had said that the Congress should not engage in politicizing the issue.

The pay cut of lawmakers should be extended to 30% in the expenditure budget, other than salaries, pensions and central sector schemes, for the Union government which would amount to about 2.5 trillion per year, Gandhi said in her suggestion on Tuesday. She also suggested that all foreign travels of the President, the PM, Union ministers, chief ministers, state ministers, and bureaucrats must be put on hold unless in case of special emergency or exigencies in national interest to be cleared by the PM.

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