Many question the transparency of PM Cares, a fund with over 7000 crore
PM CARES, (Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations)is an emergency fund which was created to tackle the health and economic emergency triggered by the onslaught of corona virus. The fund stands apart as it seemed to leverage the popularity of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, such is the power of brand Modi in India. It received generous amount of donations from all sections of society and accumulated over 7000 crore within few weeks. But now it has come under the line of fire over transparency issues.
Many political groups and rights group have been repeatedly asking the big question – where did the money go; as the poor are still suffering with hunger, and doctors are still on duty without proper protective gear. The issue escalated when the central government despite accumulating thousands of crores, did not distribute the funds’ money among all the state governments, leaving many states incapacitated to provide medical supplies and essential goods to its people. Besides, the Left parties questioned the authenticity of the fund as initially the receipts for donations were not available.
Almost a week after the creation of the fund, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggested that all money under the PM-CARES fund be transferred to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to “ensure efficiency, transparency, accountability and audit” and called it a “waste of effort and resources” to create two parallel structures for distribution of funds. Her demand did raise a pertinent question over the requirement of two similar funds, but has not received any reaction from the government.
As the number of questions against the fund kept on increasing, to cool off the situation the government announced that the PM CARES Fund would be audited by “independent auditors who will be appointed by the trustees”. Now the question arises, who are its trustees. The fund, which was created on March 28, has Mr. Modi and few of his senior cabinet members as its trustees. Given the increasing power of the ruling government some even wonder how authentic the audit be, if ever it’s conducted.
Sources from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) office said that it would not be auditing the fund. The sources said, “since the fund is based on donations of individuals and organisations, we have no right to audit the charitable organisation.”
It becomes all the more important to question the inflow and outflow of money through the PM CARES fund. What needs to be understood is that like any public fund, the government earns money from the interest obtained over the unused amount lying in the account. For instance, the PMNRF as on March 31, 2019, had an unspent sum of Rs 3,800 crore which at a modest rate of 2% yielded Rs 76 crore per annum. Now imagine the amount getting accumulated in PM CARES and interest in that. Even if the fund is public, it is built under a “private trust”. It answers and further raises an array of questions.