The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday announced that the PM CARES Fund Trust had decided to allocate Rs 3,100 crore for fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the amount will be used, among other things, to purchase ventilators and caring for migrant workers.
PM Narendra Modi had on March 28 announced the creation of the PM’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES), days after India went into a national lockdown to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Modi had said people could contribute to the fund to help the government fight against coronavirus and similar “distressing situations”.
The announcement came as a surprise as there already existed the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund which had an unspent balance of Rs 3,800 crore in its corpus as of December 2019.
PM-CARES is registered as a “public charitable trust”. The trust is headed by the prime minister. Other ex-officio members of the trust are the defence minister, the home minister and the finance minister.
According to reports, PM-CARES collected in Rs 6,500 crore within a week. Forty-five day later, the trust has not revealed how much money the fund has collected in total, names of donors, the expenditure of the fund so far, or names of beneficiaries, raising concerns about the opacity with which the fund functions.
A senior official had told The Hindu last week that an announcement would be made “once a respectable amount of money” had been collected.
Donors to the fund include celebrities, public sector companies and major corporates who made their contributions to the fund public of their own accord. Salaries of central government employees were also cut for contributions to the fund.
Last month, the PMO refused to provide details on PM-CARES in response to an RTI application.
Sources told NDTV that the fund would not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India as it had “no right to audit the charitable organisation.”
The ministry of corporate affairs allowed uncapped corporate donations to the fund to count as CSR expenditure, which The Hindu pointed out went against previous guidelines that said CSR should not be used to fund government schemes.
The first announcement on use of PM-CARES fund
The Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday night that out of the Rs 3,100 crore, nearly Rs 2,000 crore will be earmarked for the purchase of “Made-in-India” ventilators and Rs 1,000 crore for care of migrant labourers.
Another Rs 100 crore will be given to support coronavirus vaccine development efforts, the statement said.
For augmenting the infrastructure to tackle COVID-19 cases across the country, 50,000 Made-in-India’ ventilators will be purchased from PM CARES Fund at a cost of approximately Rs 2000 crore, the statement said. These ventilators will be provided to government-run COVID hospitals in all states and union territories for better treatment of the critical COVID-19 cases.
For strengthening the existing measures being taken for the welfare of the migrants and the poor, states and UTs will be given a lump sum assistance totalling Rs 1,000 crore from the fund. The amount will be provided to state governments and UTs for district collectors or municipal commissioners to strengthen efforts to provide accommodation, food, medical treatment and transportation to the migrants, the statement said.
The statement said state and UT-wise funds will be released on the weightage of population of the state as per 2011 Census 50 per cent weightage. Number of positive COVID-19 cases as on date 40 per cent weightage. And equal share ― 10 per cent weightage for all states to ensure basic minimum sum for all.
To support the COVID-19 vaccine designers and developers, an amount of Rs. 100 crore will be given from the fund as a “helping hand” to catalyse vaccine development, the statement said. The Rs 100 crore will be utilised under the supervision of the Principal Scientific Advisor.