Sonia Gandhi, the current President of the Congress party has asked the Prime Minister to transfer all the funds received under PM CARES, that was set up to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, to the Prime Ministers National Relief Fund (PMNRF). According to Sonia Gandhi, this should be done for ‘better transparency, accountability and efficiency’.
Transfer all money under ‘PM Cares’ fund to ‘Prime Ministers National Relief Fund’ for efficiency, transparency, accountability: Sonia to PM— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) April 7, 2020
While it might seem like an innocuous statement that aims at simply playing politics at a time when the country is trying to deal with a global pandemic, there is more to it than meets the eye.
In this regard, it is pertinent to note that the PMNRF had a management committee that oversaw how the funds are employed. While the Prime Minister has discretion, the committee, when it was set up by Jawaharlal Nehru included the President of the Congress party.
When the Fund was constituent, the following people were included in the managing committee of the PMNRF.
i) The Prime Minister.
ii) The President of the India National Congress party.
iii) The Deputy Prime Minister.
iv) The Finance Minister.
v) A representative of Tata Trustees.
vi) A representative of Industry & Commerce to be chosen by FICCI.
Rajiv Gandhi had then given the control of the PMNRF solely to the Prime Minister.
In the face of the Wuhan Coronavirus, Prime Minister Modi launched PM CARES Fund where he invited public contribution to fight the pandemic. The PM CARES Fund is an emergency fund that was set up to provide relief to those affected by the Wuhan Coronavirus. The PM CARES, or the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund has been set up as a public charitable trust. The Prime Minister is the chairman of this trust and its members include Defence Minister, Home Minister And Finance Minister.
As soon as it was launched, the fund received a thumping reception with thousands of people donating to it, including industrialists, Bollywood stars and the average folk. However, one question that was repeatedly raised as to why a PM CARES Fund was created instead of simply using the PMNRF or even renaming the PMNRF to PM CARES.
As of now, the PM CARES Fund got a thumping reception and managed to collect Rs 6,500 crores in just a week.
It is rather interesting that Sonia Gandhi would now demand that Rs 6,500 crores and counting should be transferred to the PMNRF instead of being in a focussed fund that aims to fight the Coronavirus pandemic as opposed to PMNRF which is for every disaster that might strike the nation.
Perhaps it is because the PMNRF is now directly under the control of the Prime Minister and the hope that the fund will one day be under the control of a PM that comes from the Congress party, who is bound to be from the Gandhi family, plays an important part in that decision. It is important to note that after PMNRF was declared a trust, nobody knows what are the guidelines that govern the PMNRF and since it was ‘deemed a trust’, it has functioned without a title deed till date. Essentially, the PMNRF has far less transparent as compared to the PM CARES Fund and thus, perhaps Congress, which is today asking for ‘transparency’ by the fund being transferred to PMNRF, needs to answer why a party, whose sole aim is to install a Gandhi Prime Minister, keen on PM CARES fund being transferred to a far less transparent fund solely governed by the Prime Minister of the Country.
It thus suffices to say that the PM CARES Fund is far more adequate and transparent than the PMNRF is even though the latter has come to the rescue of several citizens as well.
It is also now reported that the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund), which is a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, will have up to 13 eminent experts to undertake relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency including the creation and up-gradation of healthcare facilities. Most importantly, the eminent experts will be working pro bono.
There is also a provision to set up an advisory board of not more than 10 persons — selected by the trustees from among the medical practitioners, healthcare professionals, academicians, economists and lawyers.
“The responsibility of the trustees in PM-CARES has been defined, unlike in the Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF). The latter has no provision of an advisory board. PMNRF has the PM, deputy PM, finance minister, Congress president and a representative of the Tata Trust and industry representative chosen by FICCI, as members of the trust,” a senior official speaking to Economic Times revealed.
A senior BJP functionary said Congress was objecting to PM-CARES because the Congress president had not found a place in it unlike in the PMNRF. “The idea is not to make the PM-CARES fund political in any sense. There is no BJP representation on the PM-CARES fund – people will be on the trust based on their positions in government,” the functionary said.
“PM-CARES’s objectives include undertaking and supporting relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency, calamity or distress either man-made or natural, including the creation or up-gradation of healthcare or pharmaceutical facilities, other necessary infrastructure, funding relevant research or any other type of support.”