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Congress leaders including Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi slam govt over dearness allowance freeze

The Congress’ consultative group meeting was held on a zoom conference call and its video was released by the party on Saturday.

SNS | New Delhi |

Several Congress leaders including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former party president Rahul Gandhi and former union minister P Chidambaram have slammed the government over freezing the hike in  dearness allowance, asserting that it was not necessary to impose hardships on government employees at this stage when people are already facing the problems due the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Congress’ consultative group meeting was held on a zoom conference call and its video was released by the party on Saturday.

Manmohan Singh who had served twice as PM said, “We should be on the side of people whose dearness allowance is being cut. I sincerely believe it is not necessary at this stage to impose hardships on government servants and also on the armed forces people.”

While Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi also slammed the government over the issue, saying the problem with the government is that it is not cutting back on extraneous expenditure.

“You are taking away money from the middle class, you are not giving money to the poor people and you are spending it on your central vista,” said Gandhi in the meeting.

The finance ministry on Thursday froze inflation-linked allowance for 50 lakh central government employees and 61 lakh pensioners till June 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis.  No arrears will be paid either, said the ministry. The Centre is looking to save around  Rs 37,350 crore in financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The decision comes after the Union Cabinet on March 14 approved a four per cent hike in DA to 21 per cent in a bonanza for 1.13 crore Central government employees and pensioners applicable from January, 2020 costing the exchequer Rs 14,595 crore.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram while criticizing the move said, ” We can make the point when you (government) have not cut back expenditure on the bullet train, central vista development, those are the programmes which should be first put on halt before you halt people’s dearness allowance.”

The Centre last month approved the land use change for execution of its ambitious central vista redevelopment project in Lutyens’ Delhi with the issuance of a notification by the Union housing and urban affairs ministry.

The Central Vista redevelopment project for revamping of the Parliament, Central Secretariat, Rajpath etc, has an estimated budget of Rs 20,000 crore. While the government’s ambitious bullet train project linking Mumbai with Ahmedabad by 2022, to mark the 75th year of Independence has been sanctioned  Rs 5,600 crore.

Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it would have been fine if the money was being transferred to migrant labourers.

“But you are continuing with the new Parliament House, new building for ministers, new house for PM, you are continuing with zero cut on expenditure of the government which could save you close to 2-2.5 lakh crore rupees. But, you are denying relief to your armed personnel, to your pensioners, to your government servants,” he said.

Former Union minister Manish Tewari said the first thing the government should have done before cutting allowances, salaries, etc. was to set up an expenditure rationalisation commission.

Congress general secretary, organization, KC Venugopal said there is a lot of anguish among the government employees over the dearness allowance issue as it will harm them very much.

The Congress last week had constituted a consultative group with former prime minister Singh as its chairman to deliberate on “current concerns” and formulate views and policy of the party on important issues.

Besides Singh, Gandhi, Surjewala, Venugopal and Tewari, former union minister Jairam Ramesh, Praveen Chakravarty, Gaurav Vallabh, Supriya Shrinate, and the party’s social media head Rohan Gupta are also part of the panel.