The recently launched Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund - or the PM Cares Fund - and the already established Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) have similar characteristics except for slight differences in their mandates and visible differences in their setup, a comparison of public information of both these funds shows.
The PMNRF was established more than 70-years ago, and caters to emergencies, calamities and to emerging medical expenses. The PM Cares goes a step further, and caters to research, infrastructure and to the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector.
Also, while the PMNRF has a setup that includes the prime minister and finance minister, the president of the Indian National Congress, a representative of industry and commerce and that of the Tata Trustees; the PM Cares keeps the setup to the prime minister, and the ministers of finance, defence and home affairs. Both funds have provisions to nominate more trustees, although the PM Cares fund specifically mentions the nomination of three experts in various fields.
Other than this, the funds share similar traits, such as no budgetary support, exemption from income tax, the permission of foreign contributions and honorary service of those involved in the functioning of these trusts.
On March 28, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced the formation of the PM Cares fund. The fund would be the third fund to be administered by the Prime Minister's Office (the other two being the PMNRF and the PM's Defence Fund). Due to the similar nature of PM Cares and the PMNRF, many questioned the need for the latter in the first place. Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi recommended on April 7 that the prime minister transfer all funds from PM Cares to the PMNRF to "ensure efficiency, transparency, accountability and audit in the manner in which these funds are allocated and spent" as part of a five-point letter.
BOOM examines both of these funds.
On the basis of publicly available information, both funds share similar objectives.
The PMNRF was established by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in January 1948 to assist displaced persons from Pakistan, according to information provided by the PMNRF. However, this fund has now provides assistance to persons affected by calamities such as floods, earthquakes and cyclones and to the victims of riots and accidents. The fund also covers to various degrees medical expenses like heart surgeries, kidney transplants, cancer and acid attacks. The PMNRF also has a list of empanelled hospitals, that includes all central and state government hospitals, and a list of private hospitals (as of November 5, 2019) that it offers support to.
The PM Cares fund mentions that is available during a public health emergency, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the upgradation of pharmaceutical and healthcare facilities, funding research and during any other emergency and calamities.
The Trustees/Board Members
The PMNRF, according to a Press Information Bureau document from January 24, 1948, carrying an appeal by PM Nehru, the PMNRF is a trust consisting of the following committee:
- Prime Minister
- Deputy Prime Minister
- President of the Indian National Congress
- Finance Minister
- A representative of the Tata Trustees
- A member of industry and commerce, as decided by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce
The release also said that members could be added to. However, according to the PMNRF, "The disbursement out of the fund is made at the discretion of the prime minister, and in accordance with the prime minister's directions." The fund has been functioning under the discretion and directions of the prime minister since 1985, when the committee entrusted the entire fund to the prime minister, as noted here by the Delhi High Court. According to the information provided by the fund, the prime minister is the secretary of the fund, assisted by a joint-secretary and an officer of the rank of director, all on an honorary basis.
A recent post had falsely described that due to the Congress President being on the board of the fund, the prime minister cannot withdraw funds without the consent of the Congress president.
An archived version of the post can be seen here.
The PM Cares, on the other hand, has the following ex-officio members:
- Prime Minister
- Finance Minister
- Minister of Home Affair
- Minister of Defence
Further, the Prime Minister can nominate three experts to the committee of trustees.
The fund also says that the disbursement from the PM Cares will be subject to the criterion/rules laid down by the trustees."The Trustees of the PM CARES Fund have powers to formulate rules/criterion for carrying out any of the Objectives of the Trust", says the fund.
The corpus and finances
The PMNRF has its accounts audited up to the end of financial year 2019 (March 31, 2019). As per these accounts, the PMNRF had an income of ₹783.18 crores, and an expenditure of ₹212.5 crores. The surplus for and the pre-existing corpus of ₹3229.76 crores gave the fund a corpus of ₹3800.44 crores. Its audit report for FY 2019 also shows that the fund earned interest on fixed deposits, savings bank accounts, on developmental loans given to states and from fresh contribution. A breakdown of its expenditure shows that the fund expends on developmental loans to states, fixed deposits, and on medical assistance to individuals and to hospitals. The fund has not spent on cyclones, rehabilitation measures and welfare in FY2019.
The PM Cares, does not have a publicly available income and expenditure profile yet.
Both funds do not accept contributions from public sector undertakings (PSUs) out of budgetary allocations. But the PM Cares fund states contributions made by companies and PSUs shall be considered CSR (corporate social responsibility) expenditure. Both funds also accept funding from abroad, which is exempt under the FCRA, 2010.
"PM CARES Fund has also got exemption under the FCRA and a separate account for receiving foreign donations has been opened and it will be made operational soon. This will enable PM CARES Fund to accept donations and contributions from individuals and organizations based in foreign countries. This is consistent with respect to Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF). PMNRF has also received foreign contributions as a public trust since 2011", mentions the PM Cares fund here.
Both these funds are also not subject to income tax, with contributions to both these funds too not being subject to income tax. Contributions to both of these funds can be made through cash, cheque deposits and demand drafts, and through online channels. Both of these funds enable payments through the United Payments Interface (UPI), as well as through cards.
Note: This story has been updated with information on the PMNRF's administration and the Delhi High Court's judgement showing the developments of 1985.
Updated On: 2020-04-12T13:11:30+05:30