PM CARE FUND: BOON OR BANE BY HARMANJOT KAUR KANG

In the name of COVID – 19, we again confront another change where there is an instance where the whole world is struggling with a massive change, the government and the opposition still water their long-run enmity and forges new ways to catch the people’s eyes. The government didn’t forbid the use of new tactics to shine in the spotlight.

Whether it should be named as corruption, black money, relief fund or a scam? What can we expect? Is this a law related to environment protection? Is this a form of corruption? The two parties i.e. the Modi Government and the Congress together have several prolific personalities as the high officials in the committee formed by the PM CARES Fund. The second proposition is based on constitutional validity? Interpretation of what is an appropriate government?

Recently the dawn of COVID era, where the pandemic is catching the world like a burning fire, the Prime Minister of India i.e. Mr Narendra Modi has announced a new fund named PM CARES Fund.

Nevertheless, this fund has attracted various controversies all around the motherland.

There is a heated debate going on where the social media platforms are triggered with various comments and opinions, such as:

  1. When it was decided to form this charitable institution? Is this a type of insurance or indemnity?
  2. What were the reasons, advantages of the PCF as compared to the PMNRF? Why was the previous one not renamed?
  3. Who were the authorities, official capacity of the lawmakers? Who decided for the call to action and auditing procedure?
  4. Who is taking care of the expenditure of the requisite deposit? What is the constitutional validity, under which Act it was registered and when?
  5. Is this pertinent to the right to equality where the people who deposit money are exempted from the income tax?
WHAT IS PMNRF?

Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was formed by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948. This back was carried out to bring immediate relief to the families of those drowned in:

  1. Natural Calamities
  2. Casualties of significant mishaps and riots
  3. Support medical expenditures for acid victims
  4. And others.

The PMNRF is governed by a committee dwelling of the Prime Minister, President of Indian National Congress, the deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister, a delegate of Tata Trust and a legislator of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Industry (FICCI).

WHAT IS THE PM CARES FUND?

After declaring complete lockdown in India, the province appeared facing lots of problems related to the financial crisis, migrant labours, etc. And to deal with all these headaches on 28th March 2020 Prime Minister Narendra Modi reported a new fund “Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES)”. The main intent of the fund is to hand out relief to the COVID-19 affected populations.

WHAT IS RTI?

RTI is a provision of the parliament of India which sets out the guidelines and methods concerning citizen’s right to information. Under the plans of RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “Public Authority” which is required to reply vigorously or within 30 days. An activist named Sri Harsha Kandukuri filed an RTI application[1] on 1st April 2020 asking PMO “to provide the fund’s trust deed and all government orders, notifications and circulars ascribing to its concept and enterprise.” He didn’t hear any acknowledgement for his RTI, but after re-furnishing the RTI subsequently he received feedback[2] from the PMO on 29th May 2020

HOW IS PM CARES NOT A “PUBLIC AUTHORITY”?[3]

As by denying PM CARES Fund from the prestige of Public Authority, it is to be reckoned that it is neither governed by the Government nor it comes under the ambit of RTI anymore. But we perceive that  the Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES and the Home Minister, the Finance Minister and  the Defence Minister are the ex-officio trustees of the fund.

Also, the RTI activist said that “for a trust which is established and run by four cabinet ministers in their ex-officio capacities, refusing the status of ‘Public Authority’ is a big blow to transparency and not to mention our democratic values[4]

Even also the PM CARES does not fall under CAG. As the CAG office stated that, “Since the fund is based on contributions of individuals and organisations, we have no rights to examine the humanitarian organisation.” However, bestowing to PMO the audit of the PM CARES will be done by the independent auditors. But those independent auditors will be assigned by the trustees.

However, according to media sources the PM CARES collected about INR 10,400 crores in a week which is 3 times the compilation of PMNRF two years collection. It means that PM CARES have lots of capital in it but still, Indian doctors are facing problems related to PPE Kits, other medical types of equipment, etc. However, we can observe, the situation is better now.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

There is a documented form of harmonious construction also present here. There are instances where there is a change in the income tax law where the people who are donating for the relief were exempted from tax-paying, which again is a good step. On the flip side, colourable Legislative i.e. the provisions which include that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly can also be observed here. We can see that this committee also has the same members as any other government committee i.e. a manager, de – facto official and so on.

As per Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005

“Public Authority means any authority or group or association of self-ruling provided or created, –

  • by or under the Constitution;
  • by any alternative law created by Parliament;
  • by any other rule established by State Legislature;
  • by a notification issued or order prepared by the appropriate Government.

The rationale of “Public Authority’ also incorporates- Bodies owned, controlled or largely banked by the government and non-government organisations largely financed, promptly or indirectly by finances provided by the appropriate Government[5].”

CONCLUSION

In the light of the above discussion we can observe that the phrase is correct that no matter what you would do, there would always be a person who doesn’t like peaches. And this is, in fact, true in this case as well. During the Congress government when Mr Manmohan Singh was quiet and the government was working smoothly without much change, there was a question of what the government is doing? Why there is no progress, etc. but on the flip side, when we abide by the Modi government where there are series of changes ranging from Swatch Bharat, Jan Dhan Yojna, GST, demonetization, J & K Amendment, Planning Commission abolition etc. we question why there are so many changes, and now we feel uncomfortable to stand by the amendments.

When it comes to nit-picking, we can observe that the political parties keep on questioning everyone to catch the media attention and whatsoever. There are instances, where the history of affairs is there, whether it was Mars Orbiter Mission, then there was a question why the money is invested for the development in science and technology; we should pay heed to the marginalized sector. If it was to make a uniform database about Aadhaar, there was the bulletin about the right to privacy and sensitive information. When it comes to demonetization there was a controversy about the viability and the significance. There was a question about the number of deaths, marriage revocation, starvation due to standing in long queues, and the list is endless.

Thus, we can conclude that because India is a land of diversity, with a decent number of people with different opinions on the same question, there are different languages, caste, colour, religion, regions, topographies and so on. Some are certainly rich, some are poor; some are of the liberal thoughts and others are more conservative in nature. Some would welcome westernization and others stick to the traditional values.

Even the customary laws sometimes have a conflict with the precedents and codes. The politics is inevitable and so is the sleaze and perversion, but he is somehow bringing in change. At least, we are awarded the Bahrain Order First Class, Zayed MedalOrder of St Andrew the Apostle, Philip Kotler Presidential Award, Seoul Peace Prize 2018 etc.

According to me, the PM CARES ought to be brought in under RTI and CAG, to prepare it more transparently. And indeed, there should be an enduring tracking system through which all can know how much money we have in the PM CARES Fund and how many are being adopted in therapy, research, and other works. But now comes the question where there was no allowance under RTI then remember that during Surgical Strike or any secret mission there is a privacy that one needs to maintain. So here is a camouflage of the Bio War started by China. So, privacy is a must, isn’t that?

So, let us believe in Modinomics, and end it with a good note, because we all are equal and have the right to agree or disagree, anyway PM Cares!

FOOTNOTES

[1] PMO Refuses to Give Details on PM-CARES, Citing Controversial SC Statement, , The Wire , https://thewire.in/government/pmo-rti-pm-cares-supreme-court (last visited Jul 8, 2020).

[2] PMO Refuses to Give Details on PM-CARES, Citing Controversial SC Statement, , The Wire , https://thewire.in/government/pmo-rti-pm-cares-supreme-court (last visited Jul 8, 2020)

[3]‘rti_brief_no._5-_who_is_a_public_authority_0.pdf’, http://accountabilityindia.in/sites/default/files/rti_brief_no._5-_who_is_a_public_authority_0.pdf (last visited Jul 4, 2020).

[4] PM CARES not Public Authority says PMO, in response to RTI query | Sarangani, https://sabrangindia.in/article/pm-cares-not-public-authority-says-pmo-response-rti-query (last visited Jul 4, 2020).

[5] Arigapudi Premchand, Government Budgeting and Expenditure Controls (International monetary fund) (1989)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are that of that authors and do not necessarily reflect that of Katcheri.in.

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