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PM Cares: Needs, Schemes And Concerns

The PM CARES (Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency) Fund was set up on March28, 2020, keeping in mind the need for having a fund whose primary objective is to deal with any kind of emergency or distress situation, posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide relief to the affected people. As evident by its name, the prime minister is the ex-officio chairman of the Fund and the Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and the Finance Minister of the Government of India are the ex-officio trustees of the fund.

The Prime Minister has the power to nominate three trustees to the Board who shall be eminent people in the fields of research, social work, law, science, health, public administration and philanthropy. The Fund is entirely dependent upon the voluntary donations and contributions from the individuals and the organisations and is barred from any budgetary support. The contributions made to the Fund would qualify for 80G benefits for 100% exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961. The donation to the Fund shall be counted as Corporate Social Responsibility expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013.

The limit on the deduction of 10% of gross income shall also not be applicable for donation made to PM CARES Fund. The Fund has also been exempted under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and a separate account for receiving foreign donations has been opened which enables the Fund to accept the donations from the organisations and individuals having a foreign base.

In the wake of the Corona Virus pandemic and the fiscal stress being faced by India, the Fund could be of great help. The Fund is quite similar to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund in many ways as they were both set up to achieve the common ends of mitigating the consequences of untold disasters and consequent human fights to escape misery and destitution but the PM CARES Fund is said to be more democratic as the power of decision making and deliberation regarding disbursement of money and selection of beneficiaries has been delegated to three other members of the government, who hold some other important portfolios.

The chairman himself is not the lone judge, jury and executioner in the PM CARES Fund which makes it quite more democratic and increases the probability of the help reaching out to a large number of sufferers.

The main objectives of the fund included undertaking and supporting relief or providing assistance of various kinds relating to a health emergency, calamity or distress which can either be natural or man-made; inclusive of the creation and upgradation of medical facilities, promoting relevant researches and other supports. The scheme also provides financial aid to the people in dire need.

The money has been used for arranging ventilators, testing kits and to avail several other pharmaceutical facilities from inside and outside the country. The donated money can be used for many other purposes which do not stand against the already suggested objectives. The sole purpose of the fund might be said to be a rescue operation to save the country from this pandemic that has eaten up thousands of life and yet remains undefeated.

With the heavy load of financial stress and economic fall down that the nation anticipates to face after the pandemic, the PM CARES Fund has given the government a huge relief and a strong spine to fight against the pandemic. Soon after the Prime Minister urged the people to donate in the PM CARES Fund, many celebrities like Akshay Kumar came forward to help the country in the time of need. Entrepreneurs, bollywood personalities, defence personals, political leaders and even the common people of the nation took to donating money and doing their part in the difficult time.

While the scheme can be said to be greatly helpful in fighting against the pandemic but there still remain some matter of concerns that can not be overlooked. One of the major concerns about the scheme is the transparency. The government has not yet revealed the amount that has been contributed by the citizens of the country. Neither is the public open to the sources where this money is being spent. Creation of this fund also has an incoherence with article 266, 283 and 284 of the constitution.

Article 266 (2) states that all other money (other than consolidated and contingency fund of India) received by or on behalf of the government shall be entitled to the Public Account of India. It lacks constitutional explanation and the government has still not addressed the concerns raised. This situation is alarming as the fund is receiving huge donations and has already become a target of fraud. People have lost their money because of fraudulent activities like creation of similar name funds, similar websites etc.  

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