As President Ram Nath Kovind completed three years in office on Friday, like most Indians, life has been anything but usual for the first citizen over the last four months.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan, generally visited by thousands of people, including dignitaries and political leaders, was closed days ahead of the nationwide lockdown starting March 25. In fact, seeing the number of visitors at the Mughal Gardens, the President himself suggested that the Rashtrapati Bhavan be closed and the Change of Guard Ceremony be discontinued for the public as a precautionary measure against the spread of Covid-19.
Getting into action in the nation’s battle against the virus, Kovind held a video-conference along with Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu towards the end of March. In it, he urged all Governors and Lieutenant Governors to extend their support to their respective state governments “in whichever way the governments want them to”, a source in the Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
He also urged them to hold regular stock-taking meetings with the respective state governments.
A similar video conference was done in April first week – in that, Kovind said he and the Vice President would “always be available for consultation” for the state Governors and L-Gs on issues related to the pandemic.
Kovind had fewer visitors since March. Among them was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited him once; other ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah, had had several meetings with him during the lockdown period.
In order to make more resources available for Covid-19 relief measures, Kovind contributed one month’s salary to the PM-CARES fund in March and decided to forgo 30-per cent salary for a year.
He has also instructed the staff to cut down expenses at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and asked them staff to make optimal usage of the resources.
“He has decided that no capital works will be taken up in this financial year; repair and maintenance work will be minimised to only ensure proper upkeep of assets,” a source said. That aside, he gave instructions to reduce use of office consumables, cut down use of paper, bring down domestic tours and programmes and advocated use of technology to reach out to the people, among other measures, the source said.
Kovind has also decided to defer the purchase of Presidential limousine and to use from the available pool, if needed, for any ceremonial occasion.
Fewer guests at banquets, including the At Home function, less use of flowers and other decorative items, and shrinking the menu for official functions are other suggestions he has made, the source said. “It is estimated that these steps will save at least 20 per cent of the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s budget this year,” the source said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines