When the Judges of Chhattisgarh High Court resolved to donate one day salary to CM Relief Fund for Corona vide circular dated 30th March 2020, the same High Court, later on, 22nd April issued another circular.
The circular reads as,
“Given increasing distress situation due to pandemic of COVID-19 in the country, Hon’ble Chief Justice of this High Court has again expressed his desire to give more contribution on behalf of the judiciary of the state of Chhattisgarh by way of donation of one day salary in the public charitable trust set up under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES).’
Considering the fact and note of the serious issues faced by the states/country in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the donation of the one-day salary for PM CARES was only for April 2020.
The circular further stated that the contribution was voluntary. Those officials of the Chhattisgarh High Court who did not wish to contribute has communicated the Accounts Officers or referred the Chhattisgarh High Court through Call/SMS. While those officers/officials of the subordinate judiciary who did not wish to contribute has intimated the concerned authority of the accounts section of the respective districts by mentioning their names, designation with employee code till 24th April 2020. Moreover, non-receipt of the Call/SMS by the indicated date has been taken as their consent to donate.
Observation of the “PM CARES” Fund
PM Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) fund was first created by our Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi on March 28, 2020. PM CARES launched to secure donations for the fight against the COVID-19. The PM CARES has been set up as a Public Charitable Trust. The Prime Minister is the chairman of this Trust. Apart from Modi, his expert members including Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister will also chair the trust. As chairman of the PM CARES trust, Modi still has the responsibility of sanctioning and approving his ministers’ recommendations.
Why a separate fund when the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund already there?
The justification for the same came from the government that while PMNRF is for all kinds of natural disasters, PM CARES fund is specially meant for the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Any spending from the consolidated Fund of India need to be passed by the parliament, therefore, creation of donation-based fund means that legislature hurdle is taken care of.
A separate fun for COVID-19 relief would encourage more people to contribute to the fund because everyone is impacted by coronavirus outbreak. One can donate as low as Rs.10 in the PM CARES Fund, while the minimum one can donate in PM National Relief Fund is Rs.100.
Opposition leaders too have condemned the move. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor used social media to express his disapproval. He said,
“Why not simply rename PMNRF as PM-CARES, given the PM’s penchant for catchy acronyms, instead of creating a separate public charitable trust whose rules and expenditure are opaque? PM Modi owes the country an explanation for this highly unusual step.”
The Modi administration is unperturbed by the criticism. Joint secretary with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) emphasizes the question asked by the opposition leader said the PM CARES will be administered like the PMNRF while making the micro-donations acceptable as well. He said the focus is to channelize all the resources to fighting the pandemic and meeting the challenges of the frontline.
It is a great step that assures people that the money that they contribute will be used only for fighting COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody has stopped people from donating to PMNRF. But that money is used for other purposes as well.
Contribution towards PM CARES Fund will be an eligible expenditure under corporate social responsibility (CSR) obligations. Commitments for contributions look like they could well exceed PMNRF’s existing corpus. The Tata group has committed Rs 1,500 crore. Other corporates like Vedanta, Adani, Reliance Industries Limited among others have pledged crores in donations to the fund. So have bankers, sports bodies, sportspersons, Bollywood actors, and other wealthy Indians. With a more democratic and constitutionally sound trust in place, expectations would be that PM CARES becomes a war chest that India can readily rely on emergencies when the future of an entire country is at stake.
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