A total of 101 public sector undertakings have contributed Rs 155 crore from employees’ salaries to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, or PM CARES, Fund, The Indian Express reported on Sunday, citing records accessed under the Right to Information Act.
This is in addition to the Rs 2,400 crore that the firms have contributed from the funds earmarked for Corporate Social Responsibility.
Among the firms who responded to the newspaper’s RTI queries, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation made the highest contribution – Rs 29.06 crore – from its staff salaries.
The -strained Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) contributed Rs 11.43 crore. Twenty-four public sector firms gave Rs 1 crore or more to the PM CARES Fund from staff salaries.
The PM CARES Fund refused to give details of the contributions, saying that it was not a public authority under the RTI act.
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The Indian Express had in August reported that the PM CARES fund received over Rs 2,105 crore from 38 government firms since March. ONGC was on top of the list with a contribution of Rs 300 crore.
Till December 4, the newspaper received RTI responses from 121 public sector firms. Ninety-eight firms gave Rs 2,422.87 crore to PM CARES from their Corporate Social Responsibility funds. Seventy-one firms said they dug into both their CSR funds and staff salaries.
On September 28, the newspaper had reported that the PM CARES Fund received Rs 204.75 crore from the salaries of employees in 15 government banks and institutions. Several educational institutions, including Navodaya schools, Indian Institutes of Technology and central universities, also contributed Rs 21.81 crore to the fund. Most of these funds were also from the salaries of employees.
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.