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PM’s relief fund may extend to Nepal

Faced with a flood of enquiries and donations from Indians wishing to help the earthquake-affected people in Nepal, the government is working on a mechanism to extend the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to Nepalese citizens as well.

A team of senior officials, including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar who visited Kathmandu on Friday, met on Saturday to review the relief operations and to decide on this matter, sources told The Hindu.

The meeting of the Crisis Management Committee, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, discussed the ongoing relief operations in Nepal launched by the Indian government. The government will now move from sending supplies by air to using the land route, and is discussing how to change the rules of the PMNRF to help more Nepali citizens.

According to the rules of the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund and the tax exemption granted to donors, the fund can be used to provide relief only to the citizens of India.

The PMNRF website (pmnrf.gov.in) says “contributions wherein the donor mentions that the amount is meant for the foreign citizens/calamities abroad, are not accepted in the fund.” Official sources told The Hindu that this has hampered the government’s plans to use the fund to help in the reconstruction and rehabilitation work in Nepal.

The confusion deepened when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on April 27 that he would donate one-month salary “for assistance to those affected by the recent earthquake”.

The Prime Minister’s decision spurred hundreds of Indians to follow suit, including Members of Parliament who too donated a month’s salary to the fund. Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray tweeted, “All Shiv Sena MPs will give their 1 month's salary to the Prime Minister's relief fund for the Nepal earthquake relief.”

As the rules stand now, however, the PMNRF money can only be used for the earthquake victims in India, where more than 50 were killed, or for affected Indian citizens in Nepal, where at least 70 were killed.

If the government agrees, Mr. Modi could use his discretionary powers to extend the fund for Nepali citizens, given that the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty (1950) accords them “national treatment,” and they are treated on a par with Indian citizens with regard to property and commercial rights.

Contributions to the PMNRF would only be a small part of the massive total package of assistance that the government is providing to Nepal, and intends to provide for the reconstruction process. Even so, the change in rules would allow thousands of Indians to contribute to the work India is doing in Nepal.

According to officials, the Indian rescue teams will soon start clearing the rubble and rebuilding damaged houses. An estimated 6,00,000 homes in Nepal were destroyed in the quake that measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 6:43:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pms-relief-fund-may-extend-to-nepal/article7165663.ece

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