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PM CARES Fund Received Rs 3,076 Cr Within First 5 Days of Launch; Why No Names, Asks Chidambaram

·3-min read

In the first audit report of the PM CARES fund, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has stated that it received over Rs 3,076 crore as contributions from India and abroad within the first five days of its launch. The statement has recorded donations between March 27 and 31.

The fund was setup with an initial corpus of Rs 2.25 lakh. The ‘receipts and payments account’ of PM CARES stated that Rs 3,075.85 crore came from domestic voluntary contribution and Rs 39.67 lakh was foreign contribution. It has also received interest of around Rs 35 lakh.

The statement mentioned that the fund paid Rs 2,049 as service tax on Forex conversion and had a closing balance of Rs 3076.62 crore as on March 31.

The audit statement's "accompanying notes 1 to 6" have not been made public. Therefore, the names of donors have not been revealed.

In a series of tweets, former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram questioned why the names of "these generous donors" were not revealed.

"Why? Every other NGO or Trust is obliged to reveal the names of donors contributing more than a threshold amount. Why is the PM CARES FUND exempt from this obligation," said his tweet.

Chidambaram also tweeted, "The donee is known. The trustees of the donee are known. Why are the trustees afraid to reveal the names of the donors?"

In April 2020, the PMO had stated that PM CARES would not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, since the fund consisted of private donations and not public funds. The corpus was setup as a separate Prime Minister’s emergency fund to secure donations for its fight against Covid-19.

On July 11, the Centre had justified the creation of the PM CARES fund saying the mere existence of a statutory fund under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, would not prohibit the setting up of a different one that provides for voluntary donations.

The Indian Express had earlier reported that public sector units such as ONGC and OIL, along with, government departments had contributed nearly Rs. 2,000 crores to PM CARES.

The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the PM CARES fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.

Shrikar K Pardeshi, Joint Secretary in the PMO, signed the audit statement on behalf of PM-CARES Fund as "Secretary" while Hardik Shah, the Private Secretary to PM Modi, signed the statement as Deputy Secretary of the Fund.

On May 13, Rs 3,100 crore was allocated from the PM CARES fund for the supply of 50,000 ‘Made in India’ ventilators to government hospitals for migrant labourers and for vaccine development. Earlier this month, the PMO had said the money has also been allocated to set up two 500-bed Covid-19 hospitals in Bihar.

The Supreme Court had on August 18 rejected a plea to transfer the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Relief Fund. While disposing of the petition, the court added that there was no need for a fresh national disaster relief plan for the pandemic.

Days after this decision, Chidambaram had asked why the Prime Minister and three ministers were serving as Trustees in the fund if it was not set up by the Central government.

Accusing the BJP government of shielding the fund from scrutiny, Chidambaram asked why donations to the fund are counted against CSR if it is privately established. He asked if donations to other privately-established funds will also be counted against CSR.

“Was the Fund set up by the Central government as concluded by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs? If not, who set up the Fund and in what capacity? If the Fund was not set up by the central government, why are the PM and three Ministers serving as Trustees? Who appointed them as Trustees?” he asked in a series of tweets.

Chidambaram alleged that it is “abundantly clear that the BJP government is making desperate efforts to shield PM-CARES Fund from any kind of scrutiny”.