The salaries of Central ministers and Members of parliament - starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- will be slashed by 30 per cent for the coming year in view of the coronavirus outbreak and the expected downturn in economy, the Union cabinet decided today. Making the announcement this evening, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and all state Governors have voluntarily decided to take a 30 per cent salary cut.
The money will go to the country's consolidated fund, the minister said after the cabinet approved an Ordinance or executive order amending the "Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954". The salary cut comes into effect from April.
At the meeting through video-conference - a first since the coronavirus crisis started - the Cabinet also approved the move to suspend the MPLADS scheme for two years. Rs 7,900 crore from the MPLADS scheme will go to Consolidated Fund of India, Mr Javadekar said.
The meeting was held soon after the Prime Minister had addressed the BJP workers, warning them to be prepared for a long battle. "It is going to be a long haul, we do not have to tire, our resolve and mission are to emerge victorious in fight against this pandemic," the Prime Minster said on the party's 40th Foundation Day.
The opposition mostly agreed with the salary cut, but jeered at the idea of a consolidated fund. The Congress's Shashi Tharoor tweeted: "Centre's decision to cut salaries &pensions of MPs is welcome. It's a good way for us to show solidarity w/people suffering across the country. But the Ordinance ending MPLADS funds for 2 years &pooling them into a Consolidated Fund run by the CentralGovt is problematic:"
"MPLADS funds are not personal funds of MPs. This is for aiding people during natural calamities of or to fight diseases like COVID-19," said Congress's Randeep Surjewala, advising the government to deduct some of government's expenses instead.
The CPM said, "This government has wasted public money on statues and extravagant personal publicity and neglected healthcare".
The number of coronavirus cases today - the 13th day 21-day lockdown -- crossed 4,000, with the highest 24-hour jump of 693 cases and 32 deaths. This is for the fourth consecutive day that India has registered an increase of 500-plus cases.
Asked when the lockdown will be lifted, Mr Javedkar said, "We are monitoring the world situation every minute. A decision will be taken in national interest. A decision in this regard will be declared at the right time....There are Empowered Group of officials who are assessing the situation".
The government has sought suggestions from states about a phased lifting of the lockdown. Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday reached out to all the senior opposition leaders including Sonia Gandhi, two former Presidents and his predecessors Manmohan Singh and HD Devegowda.