As Corporate and Entertainment Industries pledge support, Questions raised over transparency of PM-CARES fund

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In the wake of Coronavirus ravaging the country, the Union government set up a public charitable trust under the name The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES). Many renowned personalities from Entertainment and Business Industry have already pledged their support to the donation fund while some have chosen to help in other capacities.

Actress Anushka Sharma, her cricketer-husband Virat Kohli have pledged their support to the PM CARES fund and Maharashtra Chief Minister’s relief fund. Filmmaker Karan Johar, actor Sonam Kapoor, Ayushman Khurrana and few others also pledged support without disclosing how much they were donating.

Sachin Tendulkar donated Rs 25 lakh, Cricketer Suresh Raina donated Rs 31 lakh, Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar announced that he will be donating Rs 25 crore and Bollywood actor Kartik Aaryan has contributed Rs 1 crore to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s PM-Cares fund.

Apart from Bollywood, several corporates have opened up their purses to donate generously to fight the pandemic. Industry giants such as Reliance Industries, Tata Sons, Wipro, Paytm, Infosys, HDFC Group, SBI, Kotak Mahindra Bank have joined in the fight against COVID-19..

Reliance Industries contributed Rs 500 crore towards PM CARES and another Rs 5 crore each towards Maharashtra CM and Gujarat CM’s funds. Mukesh Ambani-led RIL has also set up a 100-bed centre at Seven Hills Hospital in Mumbai for coronavirus patients. Reliance Foundation is also providing free meals to people in partnership with NGOs.

Priyanka, along with popstar-husband Nick Jonas, donated an undisclosed amount to 10 charities including Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES), UNICEF, Goonj, Doctors Without Borders, No Kid Hungry, and SAG-AFTRA.

As donations keep pouring in, questions have been raised as to why such a fund was created, that too as a public trust fund, when the PMNRF (Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund) already exists. Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor pointed out the lack of transparency of the PM CARES fund while historian Ramachandra Guha has also raised eyebrows over this.

Shashi Tharoor rightfully asks why not simply rename PMNRF as PM-CARES, given the PM’s penchant for catchy acronyms, instead of creating a separate Public Charitable Trust whose rules & expenditure are totally opaque? They owe the country an explanation for this highly unusual step.

Criticism is valid over creating a relief fund exclusively for the novel coronavirus outbreak because over 3,800 crores were lying in the Prime Minister National Relief Fund. The Central government has asked for donations to the new fund and many millionaires have already donated to the fund. In a letter to the companies, the government had appealed to donate the CSR funds to PM Cares. In less than two weeks, private companies have pledged over 22,000 crores for the fund.

Moreover, the AIIMS doctors’ association protested against the hospitals’ move of donating a day’s salary of the staff to the PM Cares fund. The doctors’ association accused that the donations should be voluntary and also pointed out that it is more important to buy health gear. The PM Cares fund is chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other board members that include defense, finance, and home ministers.

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