Why Does ‘PM-Cares’ When There is Already PMNRF?

The Union government on Saturday set up the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund), a public charitable trust in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

It has the Prime Minister as the Chairman of the trust and includes the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister as its members. Citizens and organizations can go to the website pmindia.gov.in and donate to PM CARES Fund. In a tweet, the Prime Minister said, “It is my appeal to my fellow Indians, kindly contribute to the PM-CARES Fund. This Fund will also cater to similar distressing situations if they occur in the times ahead.”

But several citizens have questioned the reason behind the new fund, ‘PM-CARES’ when there is the already established Prime Minister National Relief Fund, which has the same objective of dealing with Natural Calamities.

Why do we need PM-CARES when Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund already exists?

In pursuance of an appeal by the then Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in January 1948, the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established with public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan. The resources of the PMNRF were then utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones, and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots. Assistance from PMNRF is also rendered, to partially defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment, and acid attack, etc. The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support. The corpus of the fund is invested in various forms with scheduled commercial banks and other agencies. PM’s Relief Fund has been used by the Union government for years even till the recent Kerala floods in 2018.

The major question that looms over the government’s decision to start PM-CARE amid a crisis is “Why did the Government feel the need to launch a new fund when the PMNRF has been there for all these years ?”

PMNRF was run by a trust which constituted of IAS officers from Home Ministry and Opposition leader. It was regularly audited with audit reports published on the website.

Similar to ‘Bharat Ke Veer’

PM-CARES has no website till now. Before this, MHA had also adopted “Bharat Ke Veer”-an initiation started by Akshay Kumar- whose auditing has not been done till now. Nothing substantial is given on the website regarding what is the total collection, where the fund is going and how are they funds are managed. It is only written that “Bharat Ke Veer corpus would be managed by a committee made up of eminent persons of repute and senior government officials, in equal number, who would decide to disburse the fund equitably to the braveheart’s family on need basis.” This anonymity is different from how PMNRF and Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in states function.

How come donations by firms to PM-Care qualify as CSR?

The ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) on Sunday said donations to the Prime Minister’s emergency fund set up to fight the Covid-19 pandemic will qualify as corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending that companies are mandated to make.

Finance and corporate affairs minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted that donations from CSR funds can now be made to the Prime Minister’s “Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations” (PM CARES) fund. The minister also tweeted an MCA notification, which said the fund was set up primarily to deal with any emergency or distress situation such as the one posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Several other questions that the government need to answer are:-

  • Why not have a few chief ministers also in the Trust?
  • What is the registered office address of the PM-CARES Trust?
  • When & where did the registration take place?
  • How will the auditing process of the same will be done?
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