Updated 25 September 2020 | 14:53 IST
On Saturday, Lok Sabha witnessed heated discussions between the Modi government and therefore the opposition parties over lack of transparency within the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance And Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES). Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mahua Moitra gave a fierce speech and raised various questions on the establishment of the fund. She alleged that PM CARES is against the general public interest, because it has no accountability to the Parliament, albeit it collects funds from the general public .
She argued that the fund takes away statutory promises made under the GST regime, and corners public funds to the detriment of state relief funds. She said PSUs competing to donate money to PM Cares are like ‘courtiers of the Emperor, competing with one another to offer gifts with public funds’. She asked the govt to prevent lying about everything being put into question – about foreign incursions into the country, about growth rates, migrant welfare, other expenditures and therefore the Fund. “Secondly, the govt should stop marketing the ₹20,00,000 crore packages as relief measures, when the reality is that it is the mixture of the cash already spent and therefore the allotted.
Third, the centre should stop pocket money on vanity projects and put it where it’s actually needed, one being returning states their dues/compensation.” Advertisement Further, Moitra asked the govt the necessity for fixing the Fund, within the presence of an existing one – PMNRF, which is for an equivalent cause. “The very name – PM Fund makes people think this is often a government authority, and keeping it under RTI, it clearly lacks transparency, which the govt is obliged to. “Prime Ministers will come and go, but the existence of a fund isn’t up for discussion? what’s this got to name everything after one individual.” She alleged PM Cares of diverting funds from local communities into this dark hole where not even a speck of sunshine can enter. “Coal India has committed ₹221 crores to a fund, while it cannot contribute to the state relief funds of West Bengal and Jharkhand, where it’s 90 per cent of its operations…it’s almost just like the courtiers of the emperor are competing with one another to offer gifts to the emperor with public funds,” she said.
The TMC leader further said that unfair treatment of state and central relief funds is in violation of Article 14 of the constitution, and also stands against the general public interest, against public policy, and completely disincentives corporate contributions which the state governments would have received. She said that the target of the Bill is to offer blanket clearance without holding any accountability to PM Cares Fund. Speaking during the talk on Taxation and other Laws (Relaxation & Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, Moitra said, “The Centre cannot run faraway from its responsibility.
It must cover to ₹2.35 lakh crore by borrowing. I ask myself in such a situation: is incompetence post majeure (an event or effect which will be neither anticipated nor controlled)? Is culpable negligence post majeure?” The funds are being raised on the idea of a position , and not opening it to RTI clearly shows the shortage of transparency, she added. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in May clarified that the PM-CARES Fund wasn’t a public authority under section 2 (h) of the proper to Information Act, 2005, and thus it won’t be ready to divulge information sought within the application. The RTI was filed on April 1 by a student of the Azim Premji University, by Harsha Kandukuri. “I am sure no dying Indian would want to get on a ventilator purchased by enemy money at this point . the risks of those foreign donations are amplified by the very fact that the PM Cares Fund is exempt from FCRA regulations, albeit it doesn’t meet the precondition of a body whose funds are audited by the CAG.” Moitra slammed the govt for accepting money from Chinese firms like Tik Tok, which gave ₹30 crores to the fund. Xiaomi, which has been accused of spying on people, gave ₹10 crores to the fund. Huawei, which has been banned worldwide for its documented links to the Chinese army, gave ₹10 crores.
Moitra questioned why the contaminated money has not been returned by the govt , especially considering that a number of these are banned amid the continued standoff between the 2 countries. “Many sectors made it compulsory for workers to donate a minimum of their one month salary and a few had deductions in their pay monthly . So, how some individual is predicted to not adhere thereto . this is often an environment of fear and vengeance that this government has created within the country,” she added. These PSUs are basically public money and without an audit, it gives rise to a conflict of interest. “The honourable minister, while introducing the Bill yesterday, read out an extended list of schoolchildren and pensioners who had easily given away their meagre savings to the PM Cares (Fund). But the honourable minister was strangely silent on the 38 PSUs that donated quite ₹2,100 crores to the Fund. quite 70 per cent of the Fund’s corpus comes from these 38 donations,” Moitra said. Almost 38 public sector companies contributed ₹2,100 crores to the Fund, which is 70 per cent of the entire amount, and hence, the accounts should be presented to the general public , she added. She ended by saying that today’s India reminds her of Hans Christian Anderson’s stories of the emperor’s new clothes, where the emperor was cloaked in nothing, but the sycophantic courtiers couldn’t tell him so. “The Bengali poet, Dhirendra Nath Chakraborty, in his poem ‘Ulongo Raja (The Naked King)’ also said just one small innocent boy within the entire kingdom had the courage to face up and ask the naked emperor, “Raja, tor kapod koi?” Today, I ask an equivalent question: Emperor, where are your clothes?”