'Saving our economy is a priority.'
'We have to save our people and save our country.'
Soon after the Union Cabinet took a decision to cancel the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme for two years to divert the funds towards fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the Congress party's Rajya Sabha member from Punjab Partap Singh Bajwa took to Twitter to say that the government should cancel the Central Vista redevelopment scheme (external link) that is projected to cost Rs 20,000 crores (Rs 200 billion).
'Maybe Govt would do better in not being penny smart & pound foolish,' Bajwa tweeted.
"They have taken Rs 8,000 crore from the MPLADS funds, so why not from the Parliament building fund?" Bajwa asks Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar.
Why do you want the government to cancel the Rs 20,000 crore project to build a new Parliament complex?
They have taken Rs 8,000 crore from the MPLADS funds, so why not from the Parliament building fund?
States were not prepared for such a big crisis. The hospitals lack facilities, there is a shortage of protective kits and other equipment. The world was not prepared for a fight against this virus and also for future battles against such pandemics.
You know more than 10 million people died during the Spanish Flu which happened after World War I. Our soldiers who fought for the British died because of this flu.
The whole world has spent money on defence and not enough on medicine.
The Central Vista can be redone later. Now the number one challenge is the virus. This fight will be for a long time.
Then saving our economy will be a priority. We have to save our people and save our country.
What do you think about the government suspending MPLADS funds?
We cannot go against government policy, it is for the best. The priority is to upgrade the hospitals till a vaccine is found.
Are you happy with how the government has handled the coronavirus pandemic so far?
They have taken wise decisions. Unlike America, Italy and Britain who were late in deciding. The British prime minister is ill.
Prime Minister Modi has taken the right decision about the lockdown. People have to stay at home.
Agricultural states have to open up to harvesting their wheat. I don't know what will happen then.
Our testing is low so we don't have right data. India is doing reasonably okay except for the hotspots.
Those are the biggest challenge as no vaccine is ready. The government is purchasing kits, masks and ventilators. In another couple of weeks, we will be better prepared.
Plasma therapy is being tried in Kerala. We will be able to find a solution as our best institutes are on the job.
Do you think the MPLADS funds should be diverted to the states from where the MPs hail?
That was exactly my suggestion to the prime minister. The money should go to the states to which the MPs belong.
The amount depends on the number of MPs the state has.
This fund should be used only for fighting COVID-19.
GST funds should also be distributed to the states. Punjab needs Rs 5,000 crore from its share of GST.
The Rs 15,000 crore they are distributing is very less. It should be equally distributed. Hotspots should be given more money.
Do you think the lockdown should be lifted after April 14?
The prime minister is in touch with the chief ministers and his cabinet ministers. He is the best judge of the situation.
Let it be at the discretion of the prime minister. We support the government completely.
In 1918, during the Spanish Flu, 12% of the population died. We have to be prepared to take hard decisions.
Daily wage-earners are suffering, we have to look after them.
Rich countries must contribute to poorer nations. The world has to fight as one.
How is the Punjab government handling the crisis?
They are doing a reasonably good job. All the states are doing their best in spite of difficulties. We need a couple of weeks to be reasonably prepared.
Lots of industries are helping to manufacture medical equipment that the hospitals need.
If we all work together we can pass through this crisis.