The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, or PM CARES, received Rs 3,076 crore in donations in just five days between March 27 and March 31, according to an audit statement the government has made public, NDTV reported on Wednesday. The statement, made for the financial year 2019-’20, deals with donations only from the time the fund was set up (March 27) to the closing of the accounting year (March 31).
The statement said that the fund was established with an initial corpus of Rs 2.25 lakh and has received interest of about Rs 35 lakh. Of the Rs 3,076 in donations, Rs 3,075.85 crore came from domestic voluntary contribution and Rs 39.67 lakh from foreign sources, the document said.
However, the “accompanying notes 1 to 6” in the statement have not been made public. Thus, the sources of the funding, both Indian and international, are not public.
Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted asking why the names of the donors were a secret. “The auditors of PM Cares Fund have confirmed that the fund received Rs 3,076 crore in just five days between March 26 and 31, 2020,” he tweeted. “But the names of these generous donors will not be revealed. Why? Every other NGO or trust is obliged to reveal the names of donors contributing more than a threshold amount. Why is the PM CARES Fund exempt from this obligation”
Chidambaram said those receiving the funds and their trustees are known. “Why are the trustees afraid to reveal the names of the donors,” he asked. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the chairperson of the fund, with the defence, home and finance ministers as trustees.
The fund was set up by the government in March, to deal with emergency situations such as the coronavirus pandemic, and to provide quick relief measures during such crises.
On August 20, Chidambaram had asked if those who donated Rs 3,000 crore to the fund in five days of March were Chinese companies. He also asked the government to reveal the amount received by it since April 1 and the donors. The former finance minister also asked what was the procedure to allocate money from the fund.
The Supreme Court had on August 18 rejected a plea to transfer the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Relief Fund. While disposing of the petition, the court added that there was no need for a fresh national disaster relief plan for the pandemic.
In July, the Centre told the top court that the PM CARES Fund is a “public charitable trust” to which anyone can contribute. However, it has been argued that PM CARES is not subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General but by private auditors.