The Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday announced that Rs 3,100 crore from the PM Cares Fund trust will be used to buy ventilators, help migrant workers and support development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus.
The PM Cares Fund was started in March. PM Cares – an acronym for Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations – has been set up with the stated objective of being a “dedicated national fund” to deal with “any kind of emergency or distress situation”. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are the other members of the PM Cares Fund Trust.
This is the first time the trust has made a specific allocation. Of the Rs 3,100 crore, Rs 2,000 crore will be used to purchase ventilators, Rs 1,000 will be allocated for migrant welfare and Rs 100 crore for a vaccine against Covid-19.
Tens of thousands of migrants were stranded in their places of work after the Centre announced a nationwide shutdown from March 25. On May 1, the government started over 300 “Shramik Special” trains to take the migrants back to their hometowns, following much criticism from the Opposition.
The fund has also come under fire from Opposition politicians. On March 30, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor questioned the creation of the fund, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi owed an explanation for it. Tharoor was reacting to a Twitter post that noted that a huge amount of money was lying unused in the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
On April 7, Congress President Sonia Gandhi asked the government to impose a complete ban on media advertisements – across TV, print and online – for two years, except advisories on Covid-19, and to transfer donations from the PM Cares Fund to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability. “It seems like a waste of effort and resources to have and create two separate entities for the distribution of funds,” she wrote.
Earlier on Wednesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman explained the contours of part of a special economic package worth Rs 20 lakh crore.
The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 74,281 on Wednesday, and the toll to 2,415, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.