April 05, 2020

Bypassing PMNRF & Setting Up a New Fund Unnecessary

CPI(M)  Polit Bureau has issued  the following statement on April 1

THE Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) considers the setting up of a separate fund to meet the Covid-19 pandemic called the “PM Cares” as unnecessary.

The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) has been in existence since 1948. This fund has reportedly an unspent balance of Rs 3,800 crores. The accounts of the fund are transparent; audited by 
the CAG; and auto-generated receipts are given to the donors. Given this, many questions are being raised on why a new fund has been created. This new fund has as trustees, the prime minister and three  other ministers without any opposition party or civil society leaders as members. The contribution page is hosted in the prime minister’s official web page. The prime minister has openly appealed through  social media for donations.

Substantial donations have poured in from the corporate world,  celebrities, public sector undertakings etc. There are reports that a day’s salary is being deducted from government employees and  professionals, the armed and para-military forces as contribution  towards this fund. Further, corporates will be considered as  fulfilling their CSR obligations by merely contributing to this fund.  There is no mention of maintenance of accounts, their audit or on the  answerability of the decisions taken by these four trustees. In short,  there is no transparency and accountability.

After the Pulwama terrorist attack, a similar fund was set up called the “Bharat ke Veer”, to provide assistance to the victims of this tragedy. However, so far, no transparency or accountability on how 
this fund was utilised is visible. In this background, the “PM Cares” raises many disturbing questions.

Further, Health is on the concurrent list and state governments have a  major role in this area. Already the state governments are under severe pressure with the shrinkage of their resources including the 
GST payment defaults. Under these circumstances, given the federal principles of our constitution, the amounts collected by this new fund should be transferred to the PMNRF and from there to the state 
governments for meeting the challenges of the pandemic and saving  people’s lives.

The motive for setting up this new fund remains suspect. In any case  it should have been named “India Cares” and not “PM Cares”.