New Delhi: Neither the central nor state governments, either directly or indirectly, has any control in the functioning of the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund, a public charitable trust that was set up to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, according to the deed of trust executed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The deed of trust, which has been made public now and put up on the website of the Prime Ministers Office, spells out the powers, duties and functions of the board of trustees.
Signed by PM Modi, who is the chairman of the board of trustees, the deed reads: “This Trust is neither intended to be or is in fact owned, controlled or substantially financed by any government or any instrumentality of the government. There is no control of either the central government or any state government/s, either direct or indirect, in the functioning of the Trust in any manner whatsoever.”
It further says that the board of trustees, which includes the PM and the ministers of defence, home and finance, was made “merely for administrative convenience” and for “smooth succession of the trusteeship”. It is “neither intended to be nor in fact result into governmental control in the functioning of the Trust in any manner whatsoever”.
The board of trustees are ex-officio members, i.e., once they vacate their office, the position will be automatically filled by the person who succeeds them.
The fund drew a lot of flak from the Opposition Congress, which questioned the need for it when there already exists a Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. All ministers in the Modi cabinet contributed to the PM CARES Fund.
Trust property can be invested
The deed also specifies that trustees will be able to invest the surplus funds of the trust. It can be invested in securities, property, assets and in bank deposits in conformity with the provisions of the applicable laws.
The trustees may also alter or transfer the investments from time to time “in such manner as they may think proper, in conformity with the provisions of applicable law without being responsible or accountable to any one for any loss or diminution arising therefrom”.
Only the chairperson — the PM — has been given the power and authority to modify, add to or alter any of the terms of the trust deed, including the objectives of the trust subject to the applicable law.
Conditions for dissolving the Trust
Modi had announced the setting up of the PM CARES Fund on 28 March to invite donations from citizens to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
On 27 March 2020, the trust deed was registered under the Registration Act, 1908, at New Delhi.
The trust was set up to undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency, calamity or distress, either man-made or natural, including the creation or upgradation of healthcare or pharmaceutical facilities, other necessary infrastructure, funding relevant research or any other type of support.
It can also render financial assistance, provide grants of payments or take such other steps as may be deemed necessary by the board.
The PMO is to provide administrative and secretarial support to the trustees for the management and administration of the trust.
The board of trustees can unanimously decide to dissolve the trust if the objects of the trust become impossible to perform or do not comply with applicable law, the deed states.
Between 27 and 31 March 2020, Rs 3,076 crore was collected, according to details on the PMO website.
The bulk of the contribution to PM CARES is driven by the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs). ThePrint had earlier reported that PSUs under the ministries of power and new and renewable energy contributed Rs 925 crore, while public sector oil companies, including ONGC, IOC and Bharat Petroleum, contributed over Rs 1,000 crore.
PSUs under chemicals and fertilisers ministry donated Rs 32 crore and employees of all major ports and PSUs under the shipping ministry contributed Rs 7 crore. Public sector banks and other financial institutions such as LIC together contributed Rs 430 crore.