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DEEP READ
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A private fund in the name of the Prime Minister?
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The Union Government has informed the Delhi High Court that the PM Cares Fund ('Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation Fund') does not belong to the government. Ever since it was announced through a press release from the Central government a year and a half ago and requested donations have, the vast majority have considered it to be a government fund. Nor can they be blamed for it. First, it is in the name of the Prime Minister. Second, it begins with an official announcement and request. The Prime Minister is the Chairman of the Fund Trust; its members include the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Finance. The address of the Fund is the Office of the Prime Minister. Its website has a government-only domain name (gov.in). On various websites of the Union Ministries, a call was made to donate to this fund - although they were recently removed. Even the affidavit for the PM-Cares Fund was submitted in the court by the Under Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office - avowedly in the capacity of Honorary Secretary. Ashoka Chakra, the national emblem, is used on the website of this fund. Despite this, the controversy began when the details of the money coming into the fund and being spent out of it were kept secret. As part of the efforts of individuals and organizations for transparency, in response to a petition filed by Samyak Gangwal seeking a declaration of the Cares Fund as of the Government under Article 12 of the Constitution, the Union govt filed the affidavit that the fund is not of the government but only a charitable trust.

Another fund, named the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF), has been owned by the government since 1948. In March last year, when the PM-CARES Fund was announced in the name of pandemic relief or after that the new fund had no objective other than that of the existing Fund. Then why the new fund was set up has been explained in the affidavit now submitted to the court – which is the sole reason for its formation. The Prime Minister's fund is subject to government audit, parliamentary scrutiny and the Right to Information Act. However, funds were mobilized in the name of PM_CARES with the intention that it should not be in the purview of any of these. It is pointed out that not only ethical values but also the law of the land have been twisted for this purpose. One example is that the corporate social responsibility funds (CSR) of companies are being largely redirected to PM CARES. The 2013 Company Law Amendment specified what the CSR balance should be spent on. It could be for the Prime Minister's Fund or for the upliftment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Minorities, Backward Classes and Women. The company law was amended last May when it was found that the new fund was not included. There is no way today to know who benefited from the money that due to the deserving sections but was routed the PM-CARES through the influence of the government. Enquirers submitted under the Right to Information Act have not been answered. The response given is that they are not obliged to answer. Isn't this the very purpose of PM-CARES? A huge sum was raised in the name of the government, but free from public scrutiny

But the very stance that how this money was spent should not be transparent raises suspicions. Although PM-CARES Fund was established with the Covid-19 sufferings in focus, precise information is not available about how much of money was spent out of it for Covid prevention or treatment. And there is no dearth of instances in which many of the declared services were not within reach even during acute emergencies. Several cases had been reported when service and equipment in Covid-19 management did not arrive in time from companies who were granted funds for ventilator production. When the 18-year old Shakti Pandey, who in an exemplary act donated her entire piggy bank balance of Rs 5,100 to PM-CARES fund, later fell seriously ill with Covid, was transferred from a government hospital without oxygen to a private hospital and had to buy two oxygen cylinders. This sorry incident is painfully recalled by her father. At any rate, it is a legal and moral imperative that PM-CARES Fun is made totally transparent.

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TAGS:PM CARES Fund Covid-19 CSR Donations Private charity 
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