The Supreme Court has refused to order the transfer of money collected by the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Relief Fund as sought by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation. While the government has welcomed this, it still does not resolve the doubts about transparency surrounding PM CARES. True, the fund was set up to muster the resources needed for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. But no clear explanation was given as to why a separate fund was needed for this when a statutory fund like the National Disaster Relief Fund already existed.
Also read: No moving PM-Cares funds to NDRF: SC
Second, that the PM himself was asking for voluntary contributions for PM CARES loaded contributions in favour of this specific fund. Third, there is no public report of exactly how much money has been collected till date by this fund. Granted that PM CARES is a public charitable trust and a voluntary fund to which any individual or institution can make voluntary contributions. But when contributions have been reportedly made by entities like the Indian Railways, the armed forces and defence PSUs, it is the taxpayers’ money that is involved here. Therefore, people have a right to know where exactly the money is going and how it is being utilised.
This is where PM CARES needs to be audited by the CAG, not by independent auditors. This would have been the normal course had the contributions accrued to the National Disaster Relief Fund. Finally, while the government has every right to create a new fund, transparency ought to be its guiding mantra. It can’t eschew this principle by claiming the donations are voluntary and the fund gets no budgetary support. Government should take steps to ensure this as it will increase public trust and strengthen the fight against Covid.