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Manmohan Singh criticises govt over dearness allowance freeze

“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,” Singh said at a meeting of Congress’s Consultative Committee.

Updated: Apr 26, 2020 03:45 IST

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. (Raj K Raj/HT file photo )

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday slammed the Centre for freezing the dearness allowance (DA) of central government employees and added it was unnecessary to impose these hardships.

“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,” Singh said at a meeting of Congress’s Consultative Committee.

Gopal Agarwal, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s economic affairs spokesman, clarified the government has announced a freeze only on the additional part of the DA. He added what was being paid earlier has not been stopped.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and other leaders like Rahul Gandhi, P Chidambaram, KC Venugopal, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Manish Tewari spoke on the DA issue at the meeting.



The meeting was convened two days after the Centre held back revision of the DA for 18 months and proposed a similar move by state governments to save about Rs 1.2 lakh crore to fund the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sonia Gandhi, who last week formed the Singh-led committee to formulate the party’s views on important issues, attacked the Centre over the central vista project that involves redeveloping of iconic landmarks in New Delhi.

“I see the problem is that you are building your central vista at the same time. ... 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.”

Chidambaram cited the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train and the central vista development projects and added these should be first halted before the DA is frozen.

Surjewala said it would have been fine if the money spent on the central vista project is transferred to migrant labourers, who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 lockdown. “But you are continuing with the new Parliament house, new buildings for ministers, new house for the Prime Minister. 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.”

The BJP’s Agarwal said: “The Congress is trying to give this issue a spin. I do not understand how they are linking it to the central vista and the bullet train projects.”

He added that the pandemic has prompted the government’s to freeze the DA. “These are difficult times and the government needs money for taking care of the poor. Everyone is helping in whatever way they can.”

BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh hit out at Singh in a tweet. “Looks like economist in him [Singh] has disappeared silently ..? Aghast at the way he argues ... Maharashtra , Telangana Govt have cut 30% salary of class 1,2,3 employees. He was silent then. He opens his mouth when increment in DA is halted not DA.”

Sanjeev Sanyal, the Union finance ministry’s principal economic advisor, said the freeze is a temporary measure. “It should be noted that such measures are not unprecedented. In the aftermath of the 1962 & 1971 wars, much stronger measures had been instituted. The Compulsory Deposit Act 1963 applied to all taxpayers, property owners & all government employees,” he tweeted.

The National Council (Staff Side), a joint consultative body of the central government employees, has written to the cabinet secretary protesting against the freeze. “Central government and state committee employees are the ones who are playing their frontline roles in the fight against Covid-19 virus by taking all risks and working in the field exposing themselves without any sufficient PPE [personal protection equipment] and freezing of DA will have a serious impact on their HRA,” the council said in its letter.

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