Prepare plans to fight economic impact on war footing: PM to Ministers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the Council of Ministers in New Delhi on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the Council of Ministers in New Delhi on Monday.

MPLADS suspended for 2 years, salaries cut

*Battle against Coronavirus to be long: Modi

NEW DELHI, Apr 6: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked Union Ministers to prepare plans to fight the economic impact of COVID-19 on war footing and asserted that this crisis is an opportunity to boost the ‘Make-in-India’ initiative and reduce dependence on other countries.
Chairing the first meeting of the Council of Ministers after announcing a 21-day lockdown to combat the Coronavirus outbreak via video-conferencing, Modi indicated a phased emergence from the lockdown and said that “a graded plan to slowly open departments where hotspots aren’t existing should be made”.
Talking about the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, Modi said that the Government must work on war footing to mitigate the impact, adding that the Ministries should prepare a business continuity plan, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Emphasising the need to strategise for the emergent conditions once the lockdown ends, he asked the Ministers to prepare a list of 10 major decisions and 10 priority areas of focus while at the same time identify and implement pending reforms in their Ministries.
“Ministries should prepares a Business Continuity Plan and be ready to fight the economic impact of COVID-19 on war footing. The crisis is also an opportunity to boost Make in India and reduce dependence on other countries,” Modi told the Ministers, according to the statement.
Highlighting the impact on India’s exports, he asked the Ministers to submit actionable suggestions on boosting manufacturing and exports and ensure that new sectors and countries are added in India’s export net.
Discussing the impact of COVID-19 on farmers and harvesting of crops, Modi asked the Ministers to explore the use of innovative solutions like ‘truck aggregators’ on the lines of app-based cab services to connect farmers with mandis.
“Welfare of farmers is of high importance. Government would provide all possible help to farmers in the harvesting season,” Modi said and suggested use of technology and encouraging exploration of innovative solutions in agriculture.
Modi also underlined the need to devise a strategy to ensure procurement of tribal products so that the source of income source of the indigenous tribal populace remains intact.
At the same time, Modi told Ministers to maintain effective monitoring on supply and availability of food items, to check price rises and black marketing and ensure no crowding at public distribution system (PDS) centres.
Laying emphasis on the effective implementation of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), Modi told Ministers to continuously monitor and ensure that the benefits of it keep reaching the intended beneficiaries in a seamless manner.
PMGKY is a Rs 1.7-lakh crore financial package announced by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to minimise the impact of lockdown on economy and poor.
Ministers should remain in touch with State and district authorities, provide solutions to emergent problems and formulate district-level micro plans to combat coronavirus, he said
Reiterating that lockdown measures and social distancing norms need to go hand in hand and hand, Modi told ministers to popularize Aarogya Setu app in the rural areas and grass root institutions.
The Ministers provided feedback to the Prime Minister on the steps being taken to meet the challenges in tackling the impact of the pandemic and praised the initiative of lighting lamps, saying people from all corners of the country participated in it.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all Union Ministers along with over 750 Members of Parliament (MPs) will take a 30 per cent salary cut for one year and the amount will be used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar announced today.
The President, the Vice President, Governors of States have also voluntarily decided to take a pay cut as a social responsibility, the Minister added.
The Union Cabinet today gave its nod to an ordinance amending the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954 reducing allowances and pension by 30 pet cent from April 1 2020 for a year, he told reporters.
He said besides the MPs, the Prime Minister and Union Minister’s would also take a 30 per cent cut in their salaries.
“Charity begins at home,” he said.
The salary structure for the PM and the Union Ministers is different from that of an MP, who draws a salary of Rs one lakh per month and a constituency allowance of Rs 70,000 per month, besides other allowances.
Later, the Government spokesperson clarified that only the salary and not the pension and allowances of the MPs will be cut.
The money will go to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI), he said.
All the revenue received by the Government by way of taxes like income tax, Central excise, customs and other receipts flowing to the Government are credited into the CFI. All Government expenditure is incurred from this fund and no amount can be withdrawn from the CFI without authorization from Parliament.
The Cabinet also approved temporary suspension of the MPLAD (Member of Parliament Local Area Development) fund scheme during financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22, and the amount will be used for “managing health and adverse impact of outbreak of COVID19” in the country, he said.
While there are 543 MPs in Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha has 245 members –788 in all. Each MP gets Rs 5 crore per annum as MPLAD. It means, the Government will get nearly Rs 7880 crore from the fund.
Modi said India’s battle against the Coronavirus pandemic will be a long one and exhorted people to not feel tired or defeated and expressing confidence the country will emerge victorious in its fight.
Addressing BJP workers on the party’s 40th foundation day, Modi also responded to the Opposition’s criticism about his Government’s measures against COVID-19, asserting that India’s efforts have set an example for the world and drawn praise from the World Health Organisation and leaders abroad.
“This is going to be a long fight. We don’t have to tire or feel defeated. We have to win in this long battle. We have to emerge victorious. Today, the nation’s goal, mission and resolve are one, and this is to be victorious in this battle against the Coronavirus pandemic,” the Prime Minister said.
India is among the countries which understood the seriousness of COVID-19 and launched a comprehensive and timely exercise to combat it, he said, adding that the country took one decision after another and worked to implement them on the ground.
Opposition leaders, including Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, have claimed the Central Government did not respond in time to the virus.
Modi, who stressed on the need for wearing “face covers” outside the house, listed measures like the thermal screening of international passengers, evacuation of Indian nationals abroad and barring flights from certain countries and ramping up of medical infrastructure taken by his Government.
The Government, he said, took “proactive” decisions with help from experts and executed them in cooperation with states.
“The speedy and holistic manner with which India acted has drawn praise not from within the country but also from the WHO,” the Prime Minister said and added that India played a “key role” in the holding of SAARC and G-20 meetings.
Heads of different countries have appreciated India, he said, noting that it has been coordinating with different nations and he himself has been in touch with some of them.
However, the Prime Minister also made it clear that India is in for the long haul in the battle against the pandemic which has wreaked havoc in many countries, including deaths in thousands in developed nations like the US, Italy and France. He described the seriousness and maturity shown by people during the lockdown as “unprecedented”.
Nobody could have imagined that people will show such discipline and sense of service in a huge country like India, he said, adding that the nation’s collective strength was on display on Sunday evening.
Referring to Sunday’s exercise in which millions of households across the country switched off their lights and lit diyas, candles or turned on mobile torches, he said it prepared Indians for the long fight ahead.
“All sections of society; the rich and poor, the literate and illiterate, and people of various age groups, all joined hands to show this collective strength of 130 crore Indians. It further strengthened our resolve in this fight against the coronavirus,” Modi said.
The 21-day nation-wide lockdown announced by PM last month is set to end on April 14. He urged BJP workers to follow his five-point suggestions, similar to what party president J P Nadda had said earlier.
They should ensure that no poor person goes hungry, the Prime Minister said.
He asked them to urge people to download the Aarogya Setu app, which informs and advises users about COVID-19, distribute face covers and asked others to sign on thank you messages to emergency staff. Asserting that the battle against the pandemic is no less than a war, he urged party workers to donate to the PM-CARES Fund and also encourage others to contribute to it to help his Government’s measures against the pandemic. (PTI)