New Delhi: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh has slammed the government over freezing of dearness allowance, asserting that it was not necessary at this stage to impose hardships on government servants and armed forces personnel.
The finance ministry on Thursday froze inflation-linked allowance for 50 lakh central government employees and 61 lakh pensioners till June 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, DA and dearness relief (DR) at current rates will continue to be paid, it said.
"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 during the Congress's consultative group meeting whose video was released by the party on Saturday.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also slammed the government over the issue, saying the problem was with the government's going ahead with the central vista redevelopment project.
"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," Gandhi told the meeting.
Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram said, "When you (government) have not cut back expenditure on the bullet train, central vista development, those are the programmes which should be first put on halt before you halt people's dearness allowance."
The Centre last month approved the land use change for execution of its ambitious central vista redevelopment project in Lutyens' Delhi with the issuance of a notification by the Union housing and urban affairs ministry.
The redevelopment project of the Central Vista -- the nation''s power corridor -- envisages a triangular Parliament building next to the existing one, common Central Secretariat and revamping of the 3-km-long Rajpath -- from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it would have been fine if the money was being transferred to migrant labourers.
"But you are continuing with the new Parliament House, new building for ministers, new house for PM, 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," he said.
Former Union minister Manish Tewari said the first thing the government should have done before cutting allowances, salaries, etc. was to set up an expenditure rationalisation commission.
Congress general secretary, organization, KC Venugopal said there is a lot of anguish among the government employees over the dearness allowance issue as it will harm them very much.
The Congress last week had constituted a consultative group with former prime minister Singh as its chairman to deliberate on "current concerns" and formulate views and policy of the party on important issues.
Besides Singh, Gandhi, Surjewala, Venugopal and Tewari, former union minister Jairam Ramesh, Praveen Chakravarty, Gaurav Vallabh, Supriya Shrinate, and the party's social media head Rohan Gupta are also part of the panel.