The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, or PM CARES Fund, has received Rs 204.75 crore from the salaries of employees in 15 government banks and institutions, including the Reserve Bank of India, The Indian Express reported on Monday, citing records accessed under the Right to Information Act.

As of March 31, the fund that was set up to tackle the coronavirus crisis had a corpus of Rs 3,076.62 crore, of which Rs 3,075.85 crore was listed as “voluntary contributions” in its official website.

Besides the contributions from employees’ salaries, Life Insurance Corporation of India, General Insurance Corporation of India and National Housing Bank also contributed more than Rs 144.5 crore from other provisions such as their Corporate Social Responsibility funds, the newspaper found from accessing RTI records from the 15 institutions that responded to its queries. In total, these 15 government banks and institutions contributed Rs 349.25 crore to the PM CARES Fund.

On May 28, the Prime Minister’s Office had refused to divulge details of the donors to the fund. “PM Cares Fund is not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” it had said in response to a question from The Indian Express. “However, relevant information in respect of PM CARES Fund may be seen on the website” However, the official website does not identify the contributors or provides details of the contributions.

Of the institutions that contributed to the fund, the LIC provided the most at Rs 113.63 crore. It said in its RTI response that Rs 8.64 crore was from employees’ salaries, Rs 100 crore from corporate communications funds and Rs 5 crore was from its Golden Jubilee Foundation. The Rs 100 crore contribution was paid on March 31, while Rs 5 crore was also paid during the same month with no exact date available. The central government currently owns 100% stake in LIC.

This was followed by the State Bank of India, with a contribution of Rs 107.95 crore. The bank said that the first tranche of Rs 100 crore was paid on March 31, adding that the entire contribution was from employees’ salaries.

The General Insurance Corporation of India, which contributed Rs 14.51 lakh from one-day salary of employees, also gave Rs 22.8 crore from its CSR funds, while the Small Industries Development Bank of India provided Rs 14.2 crore from its CSR funds and the National Housing Bank contributed Rs 2.5 crore from CSR.

Here are the contributions from the institutions’ employees:

  • State Bank of India: Rs 107.95 crore
  • Canara Bank: Rs 15.53 crore
  • Union Bank of India: Rs 14.81 crore
  • Central Bank of India: Rs 11.89 crore
  • National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development: Rs 9.04 crore
  • LIC: Rs 8.64 crore
  • Reserve Bank of India: Rs 7.34 crore
  • Bank of Maharashtra: Rs 5 crore
  • Small Industries Development Bank of India: Rs 80 lakh
  • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority: Rs 16.08 lakh
  • General Insurance Corporation of India: Rs 14.51 lakh
  • National Housing Bank: Rs 3.82 lakh

— Source: The Indian Express

On September 22, the newspaper reported that several educational institutions, including Navodaya schools, IITs, IIMs and central universities, had contributed Rs 21.81 crore to the fund. Most of these funds were also from the salaries of employees.

Last month, RTI data had shown that the PM CARES Fund had received over Rs 2,105 crore from 38 government firms since March. The firms that have contributed to the fund included Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, Airports Authority of India and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

The PM CARES Fund is described as a “public charitable trust” on the official website. It is registered under the Registration Act, 1908. Opposition parties have questioned the need to create the reserve when Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund already existed. They have also expressed doubts about the fund’s transparency.

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 May, the Centre had refused to provide details about the PM CARES Fund to a Right to Information applicant, saying that the reserve was not a “public authority” under the RTI Act. In April, the government said that the fund will not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India since it was based on donations of individuals and organisations.

Also read:

  1. Here is why PM CARES should be scrutinised by the CAG – not by independent auditors
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