New Delhi: Battling the spectre of
drought, the Congress Party and the government on Wednesday planned a series of austerity measures with a 20 per cent cut in the
salaries of ministers, MPs and MLAs for a year as Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of adopting a mission mode for
pulses and oilseeds to raise their production.
At a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC)
convened to discuss the drought situation and rising prices,
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee wanted ministers to curtail
Should they travel abroad, they should fly business
class instead of first class. In domestic flights, they should
opt for economy class.
Against the backdrop of the drought situation which
Singh described as "bad", Congress President Sonia Gandhi
asked partymen and the government to observe austerity
measures to reflect concern and sensitivity towards people
affected by drought.
Gandhi asked all party MPs, state legislators,
ministers and other salaried post holders of the party to
accept a 20 percent cut in their monthly salary for one year
beginning September 1.
The Prime Minister who described the drought situation
in the country as "bad", however, stopped short of pushing the
panic button saying there are comfortable buffer stocks of
wheat and adequate rice as of now, sources said.
Mukherjee also detailed a series of steps needed to be
taken by partymen including ministers to ensure austerity.
Interestingly, the directive for salary cut did not
find a mention in the resolution. A senior party leader later
explained that it was Gandhi`s impromptu decision during the
meeting as she scribbled her directive on a plain paper with a
Meanwhile, Mukherjee said as much as Rs 39,000 crores
are available under NREGA and "we are better prepared to
handle the drought" now than in 1987.
"The PM accepted that the situation (drought) was bad
but said efforts are also being made to meet the situation
with equal efficiency", AICC general secretary Janardan
Dwivedi told reporters after the three hour long meeting.
Expressing concern over the price situation, the Prime
Minister said the country may have to have a new Mission for
raising the production of pulses and oilseeds. He expressed
the hope that the situation would improve quickly.
Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had adopted a Mission
mode approach in various sectors including pulses, oilseeds
The Prime Minister`s remarks came close on the heels
of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who presided over the
meet, wondering why the retail prices of essential commodities
have risen when the wholesale price index was showing a
downward trend and the inflation was down, party sources said.
In its resolution, the CWC said, "While large parts of
the country are going through difficult drought situations and
prices of essential commodities are high, the party and the
government have responsibility to not only address these
problems but to also demonstrate austerity in the conduct and
activities of their functionaries.
"This will reflect our party`s and government`s
solidarity with those who are facing the brunt of the drought
situation," it said.
Asking the party workers from block level to the PCC
level to get fully involved in the management of drought
situation, the resolution said, "Their role should involve
making people aware of their entitlements and ensuring they
get access to their due entitlements."
In the meeting, Gandhi said she had also written a
letter to PCC Presidents in which she underlined the need for
greater involvement of party workers in tackling drought.
She also asked party workers to function as a feedback
mechanism to the party and the government on implementation of
various scheme, providing regular feedback to the AICC general
secretaries concerned and also identify additional steps that
could be undertaken in drought-affected districts.