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New Delhi, April 25, 2020
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday objected to the Government's decision to freeze the dearness allowance (DA) for its employees and dearness relief (DR) for pensioners till July 2021 in view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic crisis.
Participating through a video-conference in a meeting of the consultative group set up by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on matters of current concern, the former Prime Minister said, "We should be on the side of the people whose DA is being cut. I sincerely believe that it is not necessary at this stage to impose hardships on the government servants and also on the armed forces people."
Video clips of the statements of the members of the group were made available by the Congress. Today's discussion by the Congress leaders on the issue came after the Union Government on
The remarks of the Congress leaders came two days after the Central government decided to freeze payment of additional instalment of DA to all its employees and dearness relief (DR) to pensioners falling due from January 1, 2020.
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.
In an office memorandum, the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance said that additional instalment of DA and DR falling due from July 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021 will also not be paid. However, the allowance will continue to be paid at current rates.
The Central Government employees will also not get any arrears in any future revision of DA/DR from July 1, 2021. However, If a decision to revise DA rates is taken for July 1, 2021 period, the rate of allowance as effective from January 1, 2020, July 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021 will be restored prospectively and will be subsumed in the cumulative revised rates effective from July 1, 2021, the office memorandum said.
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi said such decisions were being taken at a time when the Government had not scrapped projects like the Central Vista redevelopment programme in the national capital.
"I see the problem is that you are building your Central Vista at the same time. So either you are not, sort of, doing these extravagant expenditures but 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," he said.
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, "We can make the point when you have not cut back the expenditure on the bullet train and Central Vista development. Those are the programmes which should first be put on halt before you halt people's dearness allowance."
Former Minister Manish Tewari said the government should have first set up an Expenditure Rationalisation Commission before going aorund cutting "everyone's allowances and salaries".
Congress General Secretary K C Venugopal said there was a lot of anguish among government employees, because the cut in the DA would hurt them a lot.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said there would have been no problem if the money were being transferred to migrant labourers.
"But you are continuing with the new Parliament House, new buildings for Ministers, new house for PM. You are continuing with zero cut on government expenditure, which could have saved Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh crore. But you are denying relief to your armed forces personnel, pensioners and government servants," he said.
Among other members of the group, Supriya Srinate said the government was going ahead with "vanity projects" despite concerns and objections. Praveen Chakravarti wondered how the government could ask the private sector to not cut back and then itself cuts back.
Gaurav Vallabh said, "Now corporate India is going to follow because they were waiting for that. Already big-time retrenchments are going on."
Rohan Gupta said, "They don't want to take responsibility for anything. This is a government which expects the people to do everything."