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PM-CARES | Centre sends conflicting signals on foreign donations

The PM-CARES trust is chaired by the Prime Minister, and its members include the Ministers of Home, Finance and Defence./ File photo

The PM-CARES trust is chaired by the Prime Minister, and its members include the Ministers of Home, Finance and Defence./ File photo   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Centre is indicating that foreign funds would be accepted only from individuals and foundations and account details for foreign donations are unavailable for now

The government has sent conflicting signals over the question of foreign donations to the new Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, better known as PM-CARES.

Initially, Indian ambassadors were directed to mobilise donations from abroad, with SWIFT code details made available in order to accept such contributions. However, the Centre has now seemed to take a step back, indicating that foreign funds would be accepted only from individuals and foundations, with details for foreign donations unavailable for now.

 

Also read: Why PM CARES Fund when there is PMNRF, asks CPI(M) MP

 

The PM-CARES fund also does not seem to have any website with details of objectives, income and expenditure as yet, raising concerns about transparency and accountability.

Repeated queries on these issues sent to a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office remain unanswered.

 

Also read: ₹50 lakh meant for PPE redirected to PM-CARES fund, allege AIIMS resident doctors

 

PM-CARES is a public charitable trust launched on March 28 as a “dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like the one posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected,” according to the original press statement. The trust is chaired by the Prime Minister, and its members include the Ministers of Home, Finance and Defence.

That original statement, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first tweets on PM-CARES on March 28, included both an IFSC code, needed for domestic bank transfers, as well as a SWIFT code, needed for international bank transfers. However, the donation link on the PM’s website now says that “account details for foreign donations will be available in 2-3 days”. Only the IFSC code for domestic transfers is available on the donation link.

On March 30, Mr. Modi held a video conference with the heads of Indian diplomatic missions around the world to discuss responses to the pandemic. He advised them “to suitably publicise the newly-established PM-CARES Fund to mobilise donations from abroad,” according to a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.

Government sources now say that the “PM CARES fund will simply accept donations and contributions from individuals and organisations who are based in foreign countries.” They said that this was in line with the government policy on foreign contributions to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), pointing to an official statement in August 2018 that contributions from “NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations would be welcome.” That statement came in the wake of the Kerala floods, when the Centre refused offers of foreign aid from the United Arab Emirates and the Maldives.

 

Also read: Donations pour in for COVID-19 fund

 

While this seems to indicate that the PM-CARES fund will not accept foreign funds from governmental or corporate sources, it does seem prepared to accept unlimited tax-free donations from Indian corporates. In fact, the Finance Ministry has announced that donations to PM-CARES can be accounted against corporate social responsibility obligations.

Opposition parties have questioned the need for a new fund, given that the PMNRF has similar objectives, “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.” The government has already declared the COVID-19 emergency as a natural disaster eligible for funds from the PMNRF.

The PMNRF website includes audited accounts of the quantum of funds collected — in Indian and foreign currency — and disbursed, as well as details of specific projects. As on December 16, 2019, the PMNRF had a balance amount of ₹3,800 crore.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 3:11:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pm-cares-centre-sends-conflicting-signals-on-foreign-donations/article31245203.ece

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