From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : PM-CARES fund.
Mains level : Paper 3- Concerns over PM-CARES fund.
In the midst of all of this, our Prime Minister announced the creation of the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES), which—if the intention is to allow funds to move fast and circumvent bureaucratic hurdles—is a great initiative.
About PM CARES Fund
- The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was created on 28 March 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
- The fund will be used for combating, containment and relief efforts against the coronavirus outbreak and similar pandemic like situations in the future.
- The Prime Minister is the chairman of the trust. Members will include the defence, home and finance ministers.
- The fund will also enable micro-donations. The minimum donation accepted for the PM CARES Fund is ₹10 (14¢ US).
- The donations will be tax exempt and fall under corporate social responsibility.
- The Prime Minister had said that the PMO had received many requests to help in the war against COVID-19.
- Accordingly, the fund was set up and will be used for disaster management and research
The backdrop against which the fund was created
- The battle is a struggle for so many people. The Prime Minister called for physical distancing and the shutdown.
- But physical distancing is a luxury. Many people cannot do so, because they live in tiny homes, in close proximity to each other.
- And then there are the migrant workers who are squeezed next to each other as they struggle to head home.
- The announcement of the PM-CARES Fund will convince more people to give to the cause.
- However, certain aspects make one to look at the PM-CARES fund with mixed emotions. Here is why:
1. The government has faced challenges on the execution side
- The PM did a great job rallying the country together, but the pictures of migrants walking hundreds of miles to get to the safety of their homes are heart-wrenching.
- Criticism in hindsight: Of course, such decisions had to be made quickly, and it is easy to criticise the government in hindsight.
- Inaction could be more damaging: And sometimes there are limited alternatives when one is doing work on a war footing. Mistakes are bound to be made, and in many cases, inaction could be more damaging.
- The PM also acknowledged and apologised for these hardships in his latest Mann Ki Baat address.
2. Non-profits working on relief and rehabilitation are already struggling
- In this environment, nonprofits are already struggling on the funding side.
- Many will shut down or go into hibernation over the next three months and their employees will join the daily wage earners as workers who suddenly do not have any income.
3. Based on media reports, PM-CARES has been set up as a trust
- Legislation to ban CSR funding to trusts: Despite the fact that the government is currently pushing legislation that aims to ban Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funding to nonprofits set up as trusts or societies.
- Poor governance of the trusts: One of the reasons given for doing so is the alleged poor governance structure of trusts and societies when compared to Section 8 companies.
- Why then has the government set up PM-CARES as a trust aimed at targeting corporate CSR funds?
4. PM-CARES has made no announcements on governance, accountability, etc.
- No questions asked: While many donors have stepped up to fund non-profits working on covid-19 relief measures, their amounts pale in comparison to how much PM-CARES raised in its first two days.
- Moreover, donors have grilled nonprofits on how we will ensure proper delivery.
- But no such questions are being asked of the PM-CARES Fund.
- How will success be measured? What audited accounts will be given? This information has not been shared.
- So far, the success with respect to funds raised for PM-CARES is a reflection of the confidence people have in our Prime Minister.
- Problems are surfacing: However, problems are already surfacing, like reports of fake online accounts being set up to steal funds meant for PM-CARES.
- Presumably, issues will be addressed over the next few days, because everything is moving so fast and decisions are being taken on a war footing.
5. Centralised funding could hurt localised solutions
- Solution comes from decentralisation: The internet has taught us that ideas and solutions come from decentralised, empowered teams driven by big, hairy, audacious goals.
- Involving people in finding solutions: There are so many smart people across our country—in governments, research institutions and academia, the private sector, nonprofits, and civil society.
- Today, more than ever, we need to get them all involved in finding solutions. And doing so requires money.
- If a lot of funding for covid-19 gets centralised, funds to other players could get curtailed and localised solutions will die.
- Funding to innovative solutions: Here again, it is hoped that the funds collected will also be given to other groups who are coming up with innovative solutions.
6. The government needs to trust and work closely with the nonprofit sector
- The central, as well as many state governments, are talking to individuals, nonprofits, and the private sector for help to handle this pandemic.
- And they are relying on the generosity (and duty) of the citizens to come up with solutions because, as with all disasters, the state cannot handle this problem on its own.
- At the same time, the stimulus packages offered to the private sector have been very little.
- Nonprofits, most of whom are funded either by philanthropists or CSR, will, therefore, be squeezed for funding, as their donors pull back discretionary money.
- And many nonprofit professionals are worried that they may not have a job soon.
- So, on one hand, various governments rush to the private players for help, while at the same time some people in the government treat the nonprofit sector with suspicion.
It is hoped that PM-CARES will help various teams in the public and private sector work together, bridging our trust deficits, to fight the virus and reduce the pain inflicted on so many vulnerable people on various fronts—physical, mental, and financial.