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Sonia Gandhi asks Congress lawmakers to donate one month’s salary

India ruling party instructs state units to organise relief for Uttarakhand flood victims

Gulf News

New Delhi: India’s ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday urged party lawmakers to donate one month’s salary for the victims of the Uttarakhand flash flood.

The death toll in what is being termed ‘the Himalayan Tsunami’ in local media has gone up to 207 while thousands are still reported missing.

According to Ajay Maken, the newly appointed head of the ruling party’s communication department, besides asking party lawmakers of the Houses of Parliament and state assemblies, Gandhi has also instructed them to give Rs1 million (Dh61,964) each from their Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) fund.

The Congress party has 275 lawmakers including 203 in the Lok Sabha and 72 in the Rajya Sabha. There are also two nominated members in the Lok Sabha and 11 in the Rajya Sabha — all nominated by the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance government.

The members of parliament receive Rs50,000 as basic salary per month. This would raise Rs13.75 million if the nominated members respond to the appeal. Also, Rs275 million will be available through the MLPADS fund for reconstruction of the devastated state.

All MPs are entitled to recommend works worth Rs50 million per year from MPLADS. While Lok Sabha members are entitled to spend the money in their constituency, Rajya Sabha members can recommend works worth the same amount per year in one or more districts of the state from which they are elected.

There is no uniformity in salary structures of members of legislative assemblies (MLAs), as it varies from state to state. The Congress party is hopeful that roughly another Rs200 million could be raised with contributions of MLAs of various states.

Gandhi, along with prime minister Manmohan Singh, had taken an aerial survey of the devastated state following which the federal government initiated several measures to rescue locals and tourists who are believed to be trapped and locate those missing. The army has already launched the rescue mission.

Prime Minister Singh has also appealed to all citizens to liberally donate to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund through newspaper advertisements. All such donations are exempted from tax. Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna has also issued a similar appeal for donations to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

According to Maken, a control room has been established at the Dehradun-based headquarters of the Congress party to accelerate the relief work being done on behalf of the party.

Various state units of the Congress party have been asked to collect and send relief material to Uttarakhand on a priority basis.