The Central Government has recently appointed Ratan Tata, a veteran industrialist, former Supreme Court judge K.T. Thomas and former Deputy Lok Sabha Speaker Kariya Munda as trustees of the PM CARES Fund.
What is PM-CARES fund?
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide relief to the affected, a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund)’ was created in March 2020 to tackle distress situations.
Management of PM-CARES –
- The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the PM CARES fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
- The chairperson of the board of trustees shall have the power to nominate three trustees to the board who shall be eminent persons in the field of research, health, science, social work, law, public administration and philanthropy. Any person appointed a trustee shall act in a pro-bono capacity.
The fund aims to undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency, calamity or distress, either man-made or natural. It also aims to render financial assistance, provide grants of payments of money or take such other steps as may be deemed necessary by the Board of Trustees to the affected population.
Who may contribute to the fund?
- The fund receives voluntary contributions from individuals and organisations and does not get any budgetary support.
- Donations to PM CARES fund would qualify for Section 80G benefits for 100 per cent exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961. Donations to PM CARES fund will also qualify to be counted as corporate social responsibility expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013.
- Donations have been made tax-exempt, and can be counted against a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) obligations.
- It is also exempt from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, and accepts foreign contributions, although the Centre has previously refused foreign aid to deal with disasters such as the Kerala floods.
- The Prime Minister chairs the fund in his official capacity, and can nominate three eminent persons in relevant fields to the Board of Trustees. The Ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Finance are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund –
- The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was set up in January 1948, originally to accept public contributions for the assistance of Partition refugees.
- It is now used to provide immediate relief to the families of those killed in natural calamities and the victims of major accidents and riots and support medical expenses for acid attack victims and others.
- The PMNRF was initially managed by a committee which included the Prime Minister and his deputy, the Finance Minister, the Congress President, a representative of the Tata Trustees and an industry representative.
- However, in 1985, the committee entrusted the entire management of the fund to the Prime Minister, who currently has sole discretion for fund disbursal. A joint secretary in the PMO administers the fund on an honorary basis.
How is PM-CARES different from Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund?
- Since 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi was the PM, the management of the PMNRF fund was entrusted entirely with the Prime Minister.
- Since then, the PM has had the sole discretion of appointing a secretary to manage the fund. No separate office or staff is allocated for managing PMNRF. Under this fund, the criterion for disbursement of money and selection of beneficiaries is purely at the ‘discretion of the PM and in accordance with the PM’s directions.’
- PM CARES, however, now delegates that power of deliberation and decision making to three other ministers of the government. As chairman of the PM CARES trust, the Prime Minister still has the responsibility of sanctioning and approving his ministers’ recommendations; but unlike PMNRF, he is not the proverbial ‘judge, jury and executioner.’