Is PM CARES Fund a Public Authority?
Despite the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) existing through the past 70 years and operational, and that out of the Rs783 crore, only Rs212 crore have been spent as of 2019, prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi last week announced the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund).
Little is known about the constitution of the PM CARES Fund except that donations have been pouring in, ever since its launch. It should be a public authority since the money is aimed at financing measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic and therefore, must come under Section 4 disclosures of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. However, there is no separate website for the PM CARES Fund, nor has it been included in the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund website  
The home page of the Prime Minister of India’s website describes the objective of the PM CARES Fund as follows:  “Keeping in mind the need for having 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, a public charitable trust under the name of PM CARES Fund  has been set up.’’ 
It also states that the Prime Minister is the Chairman of this trust and its members include the defence minister, the home minister and the finance minister. 
“In the first place, what is the need of another public fund trust,” asks former central information commissioner (CIC) and RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi, “when the PM Relief fund is operational and money to the tune of Rs500 odd crore is already available for dispersing at the moment? Considering thousands of crores of rupees would be donated to the PM CARES Fund, we, the public, have been totally kept in the dark as to what kind of a trust it is. What is the document submitted to the charity commissioner, if at all it is submitted? If Prime Minister Modi is the chairman of the trust, will he remain so, even after he ceases to be the PM? How does one figure out if it is a public authority?’’
According to a tweet by Prime Minister Modi, this fund was created as a result of many people wanting to contribute to the cause. He tweeted: “People from all walks of life expressed their desire to donate to India’s war against COVID-19.  Respecting that spirit, the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund has been constituted. This will go a long way in creating a healthier India.’’
As for the objective of the Prime Minister National Relief Fund, it states: “The resources of the PMNRF are now utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of major accidents and riots. Assistance from PMNRF is also rendered to partially defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment and acid attack etc.’’ Obviously, the coronavirus epidemic is new to Planet Earth so it could perhaps fall under  'natural calamities'.
The PMI website states “PM Narendra Modi has always believed and shown in actions that public participation is the most effective way to mitigate any issue and this is yet another example. This fund will enable micro-donations as a result of which a large number of people will be able to contribute with the smallest of denominations.” The fact that the fund will primarily consist of micro-donations from lakhs and lakhs of people, transparency under the RTI Act is imperative. A good example is of the AAP political party which uploads every donation on its website on a regular basis. However, Gandhi says,  “AAP did it voluntarily; it was not mandatory but unless and until we understand the nature of the PM CARES Fund it is difficult to know whether it is a public authority or not under RTI and that is indeed worrisome.’’
Shailesh Gandhi was at the forefront of the RTI campaign to bring the PM Relief Fund and CM Relief Fund under the RTI Act. In 2008, the CIC had ordered that PM and CM Relief funds have to be placed under RTI. However, the PMI Relief Fund website shows you a mere graph of funds collected and spent, with no details at all. So much for the people to show their trust in such funds, though Mr Modi this time is sure to garner a large amount. Otherwise, even during floods or other natural calamities, people are looking out for credible NGOs to give their donations.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) 
2 years ago
Dear Vinita,

I appreciate the work your doing in other facets of life. However, the article is a bit premature. I believe the popularly elected Government of India is within it's right to create specific funds for specific purposes. Apart from that, the modalities of creating the fund/ using an existing fund are discussions for a later stage. The real question is asking how the funds are being utilised and whether it is being spent within the timeframe of this pandemic and whether it is crowding out other fund raising initiatives by individuals and NGOs which are doing the work on the ground. Why don't you start a campaign to get the govt to disclose the utilisation towards Covid-19 relief?
2 years ago
I have no doubts that questions should be asked whenever they occur. Subasya seegram is the time honored mandate.

I am continuing to ask questions, oops, seeking information through RTI (because there are public authorities who claim that you cannot ask questions under the RTI Act!) in spite of knowing that the information commissioners, including the RTI flag bearer of ML- Shailesh Gandhi-have murdered the law that they are tasked, empowered, equipped and paid to enforce. And the Mission Statement of my Save RTI Campaign is :


* An idiot is one who does not know the job s/he is getting paid to do and a traitor is one who knows it but does not do it. Provided that even an idiot can be branded a traitor based on the consequences of his/her action

Just to highlight how shamelessly the public servants subvert the only pro-democracy and citizen-friendly law of this law let me narrate two of my latest experiences.

On 30 Sep 2019 I had submitted a complaint to the Chief Secretary to the Govt of Kerala about a Principal Secretary to the Govt of Kerala issuing a circular that public authorities must issue receipts to the public WITHIN ONE WEEK of their submitting any documents to them. The grossness of the treachery is that he had quoted two earlier circulars that mandated issue of such receipts immediately and they had also included a format of the receipt and a board on which this information, including the format of the receipt, had to be displayed for the knowledge of the public.

On seeking information under the RTI Act on action taken on the complaint I have been informed on 21/12/2019-that is almost 3 months of the complaint- that information had been sought from the District Collectors.

Similarly, on 25 Sep 2019, I had complained to the Chief Secretary that the PIOs were not complying with the directions contained in DoPT OM 10/1/2013-IR dated 6 Oct 2015 on the format of replies and the information commissioners are not taking cognizance of this lapse even when explicitly brought out in the 2nd appeal.

Again, against an application under the RTI Act the 1st appellate authority, an Additional Secretary to the Govt of Kerala, had responded that the complaint had been forwarded to the information commission on 15/02/2020- just about 5 months after the complaint. Or more precisely almost 3 months after receipt of the application under the RTI Act and one month after receipt of the 1st appeal.

This third case should be an award winning response for stupidity (or, should I call it treachery?)

In the same complaint of 25 Sep 2019, I had also included that the RTI Act permits one to submit applications in English, Hindi and the local official language. Hence the replies to such application have also got to be in the same language as that of the application. The same Additional Secretary wrote to say that the RTI Act does not mention that the reply has also got to be in the same language.
2 years ago
Why a separate fund? Well, the answer is obvious. Unlike the PMNRF, money from this fund is meant to be used, exclusively, to COVID-19 related relief. In all possibility, the constitution of PMNRF hinders some modalities and channels of relief that PM Modi wishes to utilise for the benefit of COVID-19 victims.

As for whether the new fund is Public Authority, I trust MoneyLife have sought an answer via the RTI route and would share it with us when they get it.

That said, to my mind, raising this issue now, right in the midst of the Corona War, shows poor taste and a a shocking absence of a sense of proportion.

Can one fairly expect the PM and his band of close aides to be immersing themselves, at this time, into all the legal documentation required just to dispel suspicion of some self-appointed guardians of probity in public life?

Maybe the sense of power that the RTI activists and the like enjoy when they question the highest in the land is so addictive that the particular members of that ilk, who have raised this question, just could not defer it to a more appropriate time. They had to have their shot and pronto.

Be that as it may, folks. Rest assured that PM Modi will answer this question. And his answer will leave no room for any doubt about the propriety of this fund.

Replied to RJ comment 2 years ago
Oooopsss. Don't u know now u can't take all information through RTI as PM Modi ji don't like asking questions. He works by taking loans.. Gujrat developed through Loan and Indian Government took huge loans after becoming Modi PM. Even he took loan for sawach baharat scheme. All funds/donations should be convered under RTI act.
Replied to rockdstone1999 comment 2 years ago
RTI Act does not work at the whims and fancies of the PM. And there are courts of law if a PM tries to hoodwink it. Besides, to my mind, good magazines/journalists should boldly and diligently seek answers through RTI and not tell themselves tales of its ineffectiveness against PM Modi -related matters and instead, let their imagination run riot and raise bogies.

Your point about Modi running his show on loans is lost on me. Are you suggesting that PMCares fund is a loan of sorts?

As for your suggestion that all funds and the like should come under the RTI Act , I agree with you 100%. Other than matters within the preview of intelligence services and those relating to the national security, everything should come under the RTI Act.

Replied to RJ comment 2 years ago
Further to my earlier post, I'd like to call Money Life's and their readers attention to the article at this link, which elucidates the whole matter, thanks to its author's due diligence :
Replied to RJ comment 2 years ago
OpIndia is a RW propaganda mouthpiece. Only cite journalistic stories here. OpIndia articles have been consistently exposed by fact-checkers and its not something worth legitimizing by reading. If you have a logical argument, make it.
Replied to p comment 2 years ago
Fake news put out by what you call 'fact-checkers' has been exposed several times, including on National TV. So no point going there. Instead, getting down to brass tacks - and logically - would, in my view, more pertinent. So here goes..

One, can you point to a single falsehood in the Op India article in question, including the excerpts from other sources that it has quoted?

Two, since the MoneLife article juxtaposed the two relief funds, wasn't it the author's journalistic duty to compare the two in toto, and not just mention an odd point of comparison?

Three, shouldn't the facts that in 1985 the then Congress PM did away with the 'management committee' of the PMNRF and arrogated to himself the power to utilise the fund at HIS SOLE discretion and that until then the President of Congress was a member of the management committee have been mentioned in the MoneLife article? Particularly since it raised the question : Why a new fund? The answer that the PM possibly wanted the new fund to be more democratic would have occurred to the readers.

So whether Op India is generally credible or not, or whether I should legitimise it by quoting it or not is not the point, those are diversionary matters. Whether what Op India article in question said in this particular case was one, factually correct and two, exhaustive, or not is the point. I tick both these boxes.

Replied to RJ comment 2 years ago
If you are happy donating your hard-earned money blindly go ahead. You should not have even taken pains to post a reply. If money is being asked from the public, there should be transparency and it doesn't take donkey's years to put up the objectives, the donations etc on the website. BJP has a stellar IT cell for that. And technology is not a bullock cart. It is complacent Indians like you who give a long hand to the government to do what it wants. I, as a journalist, will continue to ask questions for the large public good. If you are happy with the article, the link of which you have posted, good luck to you. At least don't criticise the genuine work being done by this authentic news magazine which is playing a stellar role in keeping truthful and courageous journalism, alive!
Replied to vinitapune comment 2 years ago
Whether I am happy donating my hard or soft earned money to PMCares fund, or you are not happy doing so is hardly the point. We are talking of matters of public interest. The moment you degrade the discussion to personal level, it is end of a meaningful conversation. So I end it here.

In passing, though, just an observation. Magazines and journalists have to earn their reputation again and again. They can't rest on their past laurels. Inability to view self-critically all the criticism hurled at them is their professional death knell.
Replied to vinitapune comment 2 years ago
The questions asked are very relevant and issues like CSR inclusion ( not available to Chief Minister's Relief Funds) need to be answered. More importantly, not being under the purview of the RTI renders it opaque like the Electoral Bonds.
2 years ago
Care to read this document as well -

"To begin with, this Fund will be managed by a committee consisting of
The Prime Minister
The President of Indian National Congress

Yes, it is not the "The President of India" but "The President of INC"
Replied to nikunj.dadhania comment 2 years ago
Congress president is not part of the PM CARES fund. Her article is on PMCARES fund and you cite PMNRF link. Dont spread misinformation.
Replied to p comment 2 years ago
Author does mention about PMNRF in her article and compares it with PMCARES fund. Please read the article again.
I am qouting documents from a government site, there is no misinformation, while giving reply please study.
2 years ago
I agree with author- why not have transparency. It's for a good cause, let's keep it independent of govt - like CEC.
Replied to dkrao61 comment 2 years ago
Ramesh Popat
2 years ago
pl. donot have any doubts pl. in the matter.
2 years ago
after subscribing to your magazine, it is very clear that your articles are majorly the anti-establishment type in the garb of journalistic investigation. i'd rather read 'News' and not your 'Views'. The COVID is a disaster event and GOI is doing all it can with limited resources. Given them the benefit of time to set things up and meanwhile ask questions objectively or maybe suggest objectively.
Replied to aksdubai comment 2 years ago
You can keep giving the government benefit of time, I, as a journalist will never give it the benefit of doubt. Truth is bitter and you can swallow it and appreciate it only if you are objective.
Replied to vinitapune comment 2 years ago if i understand your Views are the Truth? Has this authentic magazine done an RTI query to the GOI for this fund already?
Replied to aksdubai comment 2 years ago
When did asking question become anti-establishment? You must have come to Moneylife when they were asking question to UPA. Now when your masters are being asked question, you are feeling the heat.
If establishment is not getting asked question, who will respond? Opposition?
So we need to ask question to INC .. where will PMCares spend money? That will sound bit ridiculous. Don't you think?
Replied to anurgarg comment 2 years ago
thats very presumptuous of you to claim knowing my "masters"? And why not the Opposition asking question on this Fund so far?
Replied to anurgarg comment 2 years ago
Journalists must ask questions and, of course, they needn't trust anyone, high or low, of whatever political party or whichever power elite.

Equally, readers must ask questions of journalists and magazines, including about their motives, however well-reputed they may be. Even more so, when reputed journalists and magazines write/publish articles without due research, diligence and application of mind.

A comparison of the article in question with the one on the same subject that appeared in Op India would be instructive in this regard to those who seek instruction. And those who want to get a full and well-rounded treatment of the subject would do well to read that article too.

Replied to aksdubai comment 2 years ago
It's not her fault, if you notice that's the policy of Moneylife nowadays :(
2 years ago
C mon we need some maturity in reporting ..
stop this kind of opposition for the sake of it.. Lutyns media should be first to object.,
Anyway all of award wapasi gang , jnu types is very silent , rather un-surprising
Replied to kpushkar comment 2 years ago
It's not good to be a blind follower of any government. You should not be a blind fan; you should be its trailing light. Watch each of its movement - after all, people have elected the govt. Then only every voter will be given self-respect by the Netas. Now they take people for granted.
2 years ago
Looks purely technical issues. We should give time to Prime Minister in such situation. Hardly anybody doubts his intention in such matters. One need to show restrain before publishing such article, I feel.
Replied to ASHWIN MEHTA comment 2 years ago
You are most welcome to give the PM, the benefit of the doubt. Why stop me? It's a democracy and I don't need your advice.
2 years ago
The PM cares fund has been notified under Clause 4 of the THE TAXATION AND OTHER LAWS (RELAXATION OF CERTAIN PROVISIONS) ORDINANCE, 2020. Thus it is a Fund in addition to the PM Relief Fund. Further modalities shall follow. Why the hurry in writing this article?

Meenal Mamdani
Replied to jagdishkg comment 2 years ago
I am glad that we know at the outset what are the measures included in the set up of the fund to assure transparency.
Otherwise in the absence of such information, people may say that all these questions are being asked too late and these should have been raised at the start.
But it looks like some people are very sensitive and look at pertinent questions as unfavorable criticism.
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