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Ratan Tata named trustee of PM CARES

Is this another image building exercise or will this actually lead to greater transparency about the fund?

Sabrangindia 23 Sep 2022

Ratan Tata

Industrialist Ratan Tata, who is the chairman emeritus of the Tata Sons, has been named trustee of Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES). The decision comes in wake of a meeting of the Fund’s Board of Trustees chaired by the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

Apart from Tata, former Supreme Court Judge KT Thomas and former Deputy Speaker Kariya Munda were also named trustees of the Fund. Also present at the meeting were Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. According to an official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), “Prime Minister said that participation of new Trustees and Advisors will provide wider perspectives to the functioning of the PM CARES Fund. Their vast experience of public life would impart further vigour in making the fund more responsive to various public needs.”

Three people were also nominated to the Advisory Board of the PM CARES Fund. There are:

  • Shri Rajiv Mehrishi, Former Comptroller and Auditor General of India

  • Smt. Sudha Murthy, Former Chairperson, Infosys Foundation

  • Shri Anand Shah, Co-founder of Teach for India and Former CEO of Indicorps and Piramal Foundation.

While no doubt the inclusion of such eminent personalities in the Fund could help improve its image, the wider questions pertaining to the Fund, especially its ownership, as well as transparency of operations, still remain unanswered.

Readers would recall that in September 2021, in a written submission made before the Delhi High Court in connection with a petition seeking that PM CARES Fund be declared as ‘The State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution, Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, an Under Secretary at the PMO, has stated, “Irrespective of whether the trust is a “State” or other authority within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India and or whether it is a ‘public authority’ within the meaning of section 2[h] of Right to Information Act, Section 8 in general and that of provisions contained in sub section [e] and [j], in particular, of the Right to Information Act, it is not permissible to disclose third party information.”

Also, the fund’s amount does not go into the Consolidated Fund of India. The PMO official further submitted that his role in the fund is on an honourary basis and that its funds are audited by a Chartered Accountant from the panel prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). This submission effectively suggested that does not belong to the Government of India (GoI) and is infact a “third party”.

According to the PM CARES Fund’s own website (https://www.pmcares.gov.in/en/web/page/about_us), the Fund was set up “keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected,” and that, “PM CARES Fund has been registered as a Public Charitable Trust. The trust deed of PM CARES Fund has been registered under the Registration Act, 1908 at New Delhi on 27th March, 2020.”

Furthermore, “Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.” The website also says, “The Chairperson of the Board of Trustees (Prime Minister) shall have the power to nominate three trustees to the Board of Trustees who shall be eminent persons in the field of research, health, science, social work, law, public administration and philanthropy.” Importantly, “Any person appointed a Trustee shall act in a pro bono capacity.”

In terms of transparency, efforts have been made to give details of allocation of Funds, even if list of donors has not been made public. According to official figures listed on the website, “During 2020-21 an amount of Rs. 7013.99 Crore has been collected under PM CARES Fund.”

Audited accounts for the financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been uploaded to the website. According to the latest report, foreign contributions to the Fund in the financial year 2020-21 stood at over Rs 494 crores, though names of individuals or entities who were making the contributions has not been shared. Of the total amount spent, Rs 1,311 crores was spent on 50,000 Made in India ventilators that were given to government hospitals across the country. Another Rs 1,000 crores was allotted to states and union territories for welfare of migrants. The rest of the Funds acquired were used for various Covid relief measures. The audited accounts for 2020-21 may be viewed below:

In conclusion, the inclusion of people like Tata and Murthy, both of whom have stellar public service records, is expected to add to the Fund’s credibility and improve its image. But there are still a few unanswered questions. For example:

  • Why is the Head Office of a Fund that is not owned by the Government of India, located in Prime Minister’s Office?
  • And, if PM CARES is a Public Charitable Trust and registered as such, in light of the recent revelations, how is it then “not permissible to disclose third party information”?
  • If all donations have been made via electronic transfers and credit cards, in a purported bid to maintain transparency, why is this “transparency” being hidden behind a veil by preventing scrutiny by way of bringing the Fund under the Right to Information (RTI) Act?

 

Related:

PM CARES: Whose Fund is it anyway?

Activist moves SC to include PM CARES Fund as respondent in Covid case

Is the PMCARES Fund using the national emblem illegally?

Plea in Bombay HC seeks CAG audit of PM CARES fund  

Plea in SC demanding transfer of funds from PM CARES to NDRF

Appellate Authority also says PM CARES not public authority

PM CARES not a Public Authority says PMO, in response to RTI query

Ratan Tata named trustee of PM CARES

Is this another image building exercise or will this actually lead to greater transparency about the fund?

Ratan Tata

Industrialist Ratan Tata, who is the chairman emeritus of the Tata Sons, has been named trustee of Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES). The decision comes in wake of a meeting of the Fund’s Board of Trustees chaired by the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

Apart from Tata, former Supreme Court Judge KT Thomas and former Deputy Speaker Kariya Munda were also named trustees of the Fund. Also present at the meeting were Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. According to an official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), “Prime Minister said that participation of new Trustees and Advisors will provide wider perspectives to the functioning of the PM CARES Fund. Their vast experience of public life would impart further vigour in making the fund more responsive to various public needs.”

Three people were also nominated to the Advisory Board of the PM CARES Fund. There are:

  • Shri Rajiv Mehrishi, Former Comptroller and Auditor General of India

  • Smt. Sudha Murthy, Former Chairperson, Infosys Foundation

  • Shri Anand Shah, Co-founder of Teach for India and Former CEO of Indicorps and Piramal Foundation.

While no doubt the inclusion of such eminent personalities in the Fund could help improve its image, the wider questions pertaining to the Fund, especially its ownership, as well as transparency of operations, still remain unanswered.

Readers would recall that in September 2021, in a written submission made before the Delhi High Court in connection with a petition seeking that PM CARES Fund be declared as ‘The State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution, Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, an Under Secretary at the PMO, has stated, “Irrespective of whether the trust is a “State” or other authority within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India and or whether it is a ‘public authority’ within the meaning of section 2[h] of Right to Information Act, Section 8 in general and that of provisions contained in sub section [e] and [j], in particular, of the Right to Information Act, it is not permissible to disclose third party information.”

Also, the fund’s amount does not go into the Consolidated Fund of India. The PMO official further submitted that his role in the fund is on an honourary basis and that its funds are audited by a Chartered Accountant from the panel prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). This submission effectively suggested that does not belong to the Government of India (GoI) and is infact a “third party”.

According to the PM CARES Fund’s own website (https://www.pmcares.gov.in/en/web/page/about_us), the Fund was set up “keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected,” and that, “PM CARES Fund has been registered as a Public Charitable Trust. The trust deed of PM CARES Fund has been registered under the Registration Act, 1908 at New Delhi on 27th March, 2020.”

Furthermore, “Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.” The website also says, “The Chairperson of the Board of Trustees (Prime Minister) shall have the power to nominate three trustees to the Board of Trustees who shall be eminent persons in the field of research, health, science, social work, law, public administration and philanthropy.” Importantly, “Any person appointed a Trustee shall act in a pro bono capacity.”

In terms of transparency, efforts have been made to give details of allocation of Funds, even if list of donors has not been made public. According to official figures listed on the website, “During 2020-21 an amount of Rs. 7013.99 Crore has been collected under PM CARES Fund.”

Audited accounts for the financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been uploaded to the website. According to the latest report, foreign contributions to the Fund in the financial year 2020-21 stood at over Rs 494 crores, though names of individuals or entities who were making the contributions has not been shared. Of the total amount spent, Rs 1,311 crores was spent on 50,000 Made in India ventilators that were given to government hospitals across the country. Another Rs 1,000 crores was allotted to states and union territories for welfare of migrants. The rest of the Funds acquired were used for various Covid relief measures. The audited accounts for 2020-21 may be viewed below:

In conclusion, the inclusion of people like Tata and Murthy, both of whom have stellar public service records, is expected to add to the Fund’s credibility and improve its image. But there are still a few unanswered questions. For example:

  • Why is the Head Office of a Fund that is not owned by the Government of India, located in Prime Minister’s Office?
  • And, if PM CARES is a Public Charitable Trust and registered as such, in light of the recent revelations, how is it then “not permissible to disclose third party information”?
  • If all donations have been made via electronic transfers and credit cards, in a purported bid to maintain transparency, why is this “transparency” being hidden behind a veil by preventing scrutiny by way of bringing the Fund under the Right to Information (RTI) Act?

 

Related:

PM CARES: Whose Fund is it anyway?

Activist moves SC to include PM CARES Fund as respondent in Covid case

Is the PMCARES Fund using the national emblem illegally?

Plea in Bombay HC seeks CAG audit of PM CARES fund  

Plea in SC demanding transfer of funds from PM CARES to NDRF

Appellate Authority also says PM CARES not public authority

PM CARES not a Public Authority says PMO, in response to RTI query

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