President’s virus-led austerity drive: No new limousine, no lavish spread, limited flower decorations

President Ram Nath Kovind will not ride the brand new Rs 10 crore limousine that was to be procured for his use at the next Republic Day parade. And the text time Rashtrapati Bhavan hosts a state banquet, the usually lavish spread will pruned to avoid any semblance of opulence.

Flower decorations on the sprawling campus of Rashtrapati Bhavan, too, would be limited. No new construction work will be sanctioned in the world’s second-largest presidential estate in the next one year.

These are some of the measures being adopted to save funds as much as possible by the republic’s highest office at a time when millions of Indians– especially migrant workers, poor households and daily wagers—are striving to make ends meet amid the lockdown imposed for the coronavirus pandemic.

A brand-new limousine was to be procured this year for use by the president, who has been using an earlier version of the Mercedes-Benz S Class (S600) Pullman Guard. The new set of wheels—with state-of-the-art security features — was scheduled to come before the next Republic Day. The plan has now been shelved.

Rashtrapati Bhavan plans to pare the opulence of state banquets “Menu and guest list will be trimmed for all future banquets. We will ensure full honour for the state guest but we will also be careful not to show off. There will be no opulence.”

To be sure, there’s no immediate state visit to India in the works as nations around the world battle the Covid pandemic.

The aim, added another official, is to reduce costs by 20% so that the money can be spent for the poor.

The President’s Estate will also stop all new construction work, but the limited ongoing work will continue.

“Money will be utilised for poor people. But stop in work doesn’t mean cut in money for contract workers. Idea is to reduce consumption by those who are better off in the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” said the second official.

So far, President Ram Nath Kovind has given Rs 5 lakh from his salary to the PM Cares Fund. Officials in Rashtrapati Bhavan have contributed another Rs 18 lakh to the fund.

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