Politics behind PM-CARES fund
The PM-CARES stands for The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, established by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 28th March 2020, as a charitable trust in order to sponsor the efforts of the government to fight Covid-19, which can receive voluntary contributions from individuals or organizations (both public and private).
The PM-Cares doesn’t receive any budget re-allocations from the government and it relies entirely upon voluntary contributions.
Contributions made to the PM-CARES fund qualify for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations and the contributions have also been exempted from the Foreigner Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, which means the fund allows foreign contribution as well. This exemption has triggered a controversy because, during the Kerala floods of 2018-19, the Centre denied exemption to receive funds from outside of India citing the provisions of the Disaster Management Act which empowers the Centre with discretionary powers to decide upon accepting foreign aids and donations for dealing with disasters and calamities.
The fund is managed by a trust with the Indian Prime Minister acting as the chairperson, assisted by 3 ex-officio trustees of the funds which include the Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh, Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah and the Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. The PM also gets to nominate three eminent persons to the board of trustees that manages the PM-CARES fund.
Critics question the reason for the creation of this fund, as there already exists a similar fund i.e. the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), established by former PM Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948. The money from the PMNRF is used to assist victims of natural and industrial disasters, riots, etc. The PMNRF seems to be more transparent and currently has Rs. 3800 crores of funds lying idle.
The Prime Minister’s office has not replied to the RTIs regarding the amount collected and the use of the money from this fund. A senior official said that an announcement regarding the fund will be made only when a “respectable” amount of money is collected. Even after 70 days of creation the PMO or any government office has failed to answer about the usage of the fund money.
It has also been announced that the fund will not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), instead, the fund will be audited by private auditors.
It is feared that due to the PM-CARES, the state governments would receive fewer grants and donations during this hour of necessity.
The fund has a lead to a lot of criticism regarding the lack of its transparency and the failure of the government to provide adequate information on it.
Even during this time of crisis, the central government is trying to avert from one of the prime responsibilities of a democracy i.e. to maintain transparency. In such times when we are facing a migrant crisis and lacking proper medical kits and test kits, the government should not indulge in hiding data from its citizens especially because it is the public money and even PSUs have donated to the fund, so it is necessary for the government to reveal the amount of money collected and used from the PM-CARES if the PM really Cares.