Coronavirus Outbreak: MLAs to spend Rs 50 lakh; state wants Rs 2 crore from each fund

Updated: Mar 29, 2020, 10:28 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

The state employees federation wants them to divert at least Rs 2 crore of one year's allocation for creating health infrastructure, which is proving to be inadequate in containing the outbreak.

On Friday, NCP president Sharad Pawar asked party legislators to contribute their month's salary; (right) Bandra East MLA Zeeshan Siddiqui (Congress) has contributed to the CM’s relief fund
On Friday, NCP president Sharad Pawar asked party legislators to contribute their month's salary; (right) Bandra East MLA Zeeshan Siddiqui (Congress) has contributed to the CM’s relief fund

Even as the government allowed MLAs and MLCs to allocate Rs 50 lakh each from their R3 crore annual local area development fund for coronavirus mitigation in their respective districts, the state employees federation wants them to divert at least Rs 2 crore of one year's allocation for creating health infrastructure, which is proving to be inadequate in containing the outbreak.

The members of the state legislature and local bodies are allotted a specific sum annually. This budget, the legislator's annual fund was increased to R3 crore each from R2 crore from the financial year 2020-2021. There are 367 members in the legislature (both houses) in the state. The members of municipal corporations and councils also have development funds available.

The suggestion has come from the apex federation of state employees' trade unions. Subhash Gangurde, general secretary of the federation, said he will be writing to CM Uddhav Thackeray and DCM and finance minister Ajit Pawar asking them to consider the suggestion. He said the state employees would contribute one day's salary for the CM's relief fund for mitigating the pandemic.

According to Gangurde, who has previously worked with the finance department, the state can raise a large amount in one year if all legislators' funds are diverted towards health infrastructure. "If not all of the R3 crore, the state can at least divert R2 crore each from the development fund," he added.

MLAs must spend their fund in their constituency, but the MLCs (member of the legislative council) can allot funds anywhere in the state. The recommendations go through the government which ensures implementation through district collectors.

Amid the crisis, some individual MLAs have contributed a month's salary to the CM's relief fund for pandemic mitigation. Bandra East MLA Zeeshan Siddiqui (Congress) was one of the first to announce his share. On Friday, NCP president Sharad Pawar asked party legislators to contribute their month's salary. The BJP also announced a one-month salary contribution from all its MLAs, MLCs and other elected representatives to the State Disaster Relief Fund. Many MPs have also contributed their
salaries.

Congress MLC sets example

Not all legislators may support the diversion of all their development funds because it may compromise their vote blocs. But, there are some who have been consciously spending on healthcare. Congress MLC Anant Gadgil had suggested in the budget session that a significant part of the MLA/MLC fund be reserved for healthcare. He said though the COVID-19 pandemic has made us realise the importance of health infrastructure. It's more than evident there that the public representatives could do much more through their efforts.

"I have spent R1 crore in the past three years for public healthcare. I have assisted government hospitals in Mumbai and Pune. I provided a state-of-the-art R24 lakh ambulance to Indian Army's Kondhva Hospital. I bought ventilators and defibrillators for JJ Hospital and gave Sassoon Hospital ventilators and fowler beds," he said. As per Friday's order, the legislators are allowed to spend money for buying masks and sanitisers for the doctors and paramedical staff treating COVID-19 patients.

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