- PM CARES Fund is a public charitable trust set up in 2020 with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency situation like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The PM CARES was formed on 28 March 2020 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its chairperson and senior cabinet members as trustees.
- Opposition parties are of the view that the new fund lacks transparency. They have questioned why it was created when the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, which was set up in 1948, has a balance of 3800 crore rupees ($500m).
What is a trust?
- Trust as defined in section 3 of the Indian Trust Act, 1882 means the transfer of property by one person (the settlor) to another (the trustee) who manages that property for the benefit of someone else (the beneficiary).
Trusts in India
- There are two types of trusts in India: private trustsand public trusts.
- Private trusts are governed by the Indian trusts Act, 1882
- Public trusts which include charitable and religious trusts are governed by statutes like The Charitable and Religious Trust Act, 1920, The Religious Endowments Act, 1863, The Charitable Endowments Act, 1890, The Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950.
- ‘Charitable purpose’ as defined under Section 2(15) of the Income Tax Act includes relief to the poor in the form of education, medical aid, or through any other object of public utility.
What is PM-CARES Fund?
- Stands for Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund.
- Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the aftermath of coronavirus outbreak.
- It is a dedicated national fundfor dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation.
- It is a public charitable trust.
Objectives of PM-CARES Fund
- To provide relief or assistanceof any kind relating to a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency, including the creation or up-gradation of healthcare or pharmaceutical facilities, other necessary infrastructure, funding relevant research, or any other type of support.
- To render financial assistance, provide grants and other steps as determined by the Board of Trustees to the affected population.
- To undertake any other activity, which is not inconsistent with the above objects.
Constitution of the Trust
- Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund.
- Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs, and Minister of Finance are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
- The 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.
What you should know about PM Cares Fund
- The fund consists entirely of voluntary contributionsfrom individuals/organizations.
- Any person appointed a Trustee shall act in a pro bono capacity.
- It does not get any budgetary support.
- PM CARES Fund will not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. PM CARES Fund will be audited by independent auditors who will be appointed by the trustees
- Donations to the fund would qualify for 80G benefitsfor 100% exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961.
- Donations will also be counted as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013.
- A separate account for receiving foreign donations has been opened and the fund has also got exemption under the FCRA (Foreign Contribution and Regulation Act), 1976.
- Prime Ministers’ National Relief Fund (PMNRF)
- Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established in the year 1948 to assist displaced people from Pakistan after the partition of India.
- Now the fund is used primarily to provide immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities, to the victims of the major accidents and riots.
- Assistance from PMNRF is also given for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment, and acid attack, etc.
- The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support.
- PMNRF has not been constituted by the Parliament but recognized as a Trust under the Income Tax Act
Issues with PM-CARES Fund
- Some have questioned the opacitysurrounding the PM-CARES fund as the trust deed has not been made public. It is not known whether all members of the trust have voting rights or not.
- Critics have also pointed out that the trustees of PM-CARES have a fiduciary duty towards the trust and the beneficiaries. The acronym also sends a political message and hence it is alleged that the character of the fund is incompatible with a public charitable trust.
- The government’s decision to accept foreign donations for PM CARES was also critically viewed as the government in the past had refused foreign donations to deal with the domestic crisis.