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The Coronavirus crisis has pushed the world to the brink of economic doldrums. People have been quarantined, travel bans imposed, investors left spooked, and businesses ordered to be temporarily shut. With the world economy in shambles, governments all over the world have been moved to extend support and assistance to their people. In India, people from all walks of life have come forward to support the government’s increasing expenditure by contributing to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES). Launched on 28 March 2020 in lieu of shortages that might arise during the time of the national lockdown, the fund’s purpose is to finance relief measures in the pandemic.


The PM CARES fund fails to provide complete transparency as there is an absence of a reliable auditing mechanism for the fund. Exclusion of the Leader of the Opposition from the Board of Trustees makes the functioning of the committee opaque and unchallenged.

Donations to the PM fund have been allowed to be adjusted as CSR activities, while contributions made to similar CM funds (Chief Minister, state-specific) have not been granted the same authorisation. Many also see the fund as an unnecessary mechanism, because the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) set up in 1948 already holds ₹38 Billion. No elaborate statement of purposes, or of allocation of money raised has been made public. This raises concerns of accountability and answerability in these turbulent times.


The PM CARES fund is responsible for spurring collective action in these extraordinary and difficult times. A single collection unit formed for all contributions from the general public to mitigate damage and alleviate suffering. This fund is completely dedicated to the pandemic, whereas the PMNRF is focussed on all types of emergencies. Establishing the new fund was thus a targeted initiative. The fund also accepts micro-donations, increasing the traction of its operation. By providing relief in terms of CSR allowances and granting section 80G benefits, larger contributions have been encouraged. With a reduction in government revenue, the donations will provide substantial support to the treasury and boost relief work.


The PM CARES fund highlights the requirement of collective contributions, but it comes with serious concerns of accountability. In such a situation it becomes important for the government to publicly issue the rules adopted for the functioning of this fund. A complete report about receipts and expenses must be issued, and an independent agency must be given auditing rights. The government also needs to keep prominent members of the opposition in the loop to improve decision making and bring transparency in the working of the fund. The generous donations to the fund reflect the trust that people repose in the government. Hence, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure proper utilisation of every penny to combat the crisis that we are facing. This must be done in an open and transparent manner.

By Devashish Miglani


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