Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

PM launches Aspirational Block Programme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aspirational Block Programme (ABP)

Mains level : Read the attached story


Prime Minister has launched the government’s Aspirational Block Programme (ABP), which is aimed at improving the performance of blocks lagging on various development parameters.

Aspirational Block Programme (ABP)

  • The Aspirational Blocks Programme is on the lines of the Aspirational District Programme that was launched in 2018 and covers 112 districts across the country.
  • The Centre had announced its intention to launch this initiative in the Union Budget 2022-23.
  • The programme will cover 500 districts across 31 states and Union Territories initially.
  • Over half of these blocks are in 6 states—Uttar Pradesh (68 blocks), Bihar (61), Madhya Pradesh (42), Jharkhand (34), Odisha (29) and West Bengal (29).
  • However, states can add more blocks to the programme later.

About Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP)

  • Launched in January 2018, the ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ initiative aims to remove this heterogeneity through a mass movement to quickly and effectively transform these districts.
  • The broad contours of the program are Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts driven by a spirit of mass Movement.
  • With States as the main drivers, this program will focus on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.

Behind the name

  • PM then negated the idea of naming any scheme based on their backwardness.
  • Rather the name ‘Aspirational’ presents a more affirmative action-based execution of the scheme.

Selection of districts

  • A total of 117 Aspirational districts have been identified by NITI Aayog based upon composite indicators.
  • The objective of the program is to monitor the real-time progress of aspirational districts based on 49 indicators (81 data points) from the 5 identified thematic areas.

Weightage has been accorded to these districts as below:

  • Health & Nutrition (30%)
  • Education (30%)
  • Agriculture & Water Resources (20%)
  • Financial Inclusion & Skill Development (10%)
  • Basic Infrastructure (10%)

Strategy of the ADP

The core Strategy of the program may be summarized as follows.

  • Making development a mass movement in these districts
  • Identify low hanging fruits and the strength of each district, to act as a catalyst
  • for development.
  • Measure progress and rank districts to spur a sense of competition.
  • Districts shall aspire to become State’s best to Nation’s best.

Features of the ADP

  • It has transformed into a Jan Andolan.
  • The ADP is different in trying to monitor the improvement of these districts through real-time data tracking.
  • The programme seeks to develop convergence between selected existing central and state government programmes.
  • District performance in the public domain and experience building of the district bureaucracy is another notable feature.
  • The programme is targeted, not towards any single group of beneficiaries, but rather towards the population of the district as a whole.

What makes this program special?

The program reflects what has become of the development project in India under neoliberalism, especially after the end of planning.

  • Long overdue sectors have been given more emphasis.
  • It is not a tailor-made program with one-size-fit strategy. More onus has been laid on the districts. It has a district-intervention strategy.
  • It works on the principle of SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threats) model and comparison with national best parameters for effective resource management.
  • It is the most reviewed programme by the Prime Minister.
  • A general idea behind the idea is that a good work never goes un-noticed. It is duly appreciated on social media as well as by the officials.

Programmatic Strengths

  • A key strength of the ADP is the collection of baseline data and follow-ups at regular intervals.
  • Sustaining this effort would create a robust compilation of statistics for use by both researchers and policy-makers.
  • In doing this, the government also brings much-needed attention to human development and a willingness to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Incremental progress being made in the chosen districts as reflected in the rankings.
  • The programme also claims to be “non-partisan and unbiased” and geared towards all-India growth.
  • The selection of districts indeed suggests that the programme has not favored any bias either regional, political or any other.
  • The programme seeks convergence of central and state schemes anchored around specific activities.

Issues with the programme

  • Using the case of Bihar, they argue that the programmes selection of districts itself is problematic.
  • In fact, it actually excludes the most backward districts because per capita income, the most basic measure of development, has not been considered.
  • There seems to be some ambiguity around the issue of whether the programme is concerned only with improved access or also with the quality of service provided.
  • The indicators used are not defined relationally, rather they are static human development indicators that do not see people mired in dynamic social relations.
  • It is also accused that the state is not making any new or focused public investment (except for possible use of Flexi-funds) into these districts, on the other hand, it is moralizing about their inability to improve (through rankings).
  • The programme is carrying the burden of proving the government’s “developmental” work without addressing any of the fundamental issues around achieving equitable development.
  • Yet, the NITI Aayog justifies the overall approach as capitalizing on “low-hanging fruit.”

Way forward

  • The program has been able to make difference in the lives of citizens of India, in education, health, nutrition, financial inclusion, skill development and this has made a difference to some most backward and most geographically far-flung districts of the nation.
  • ADP is ‘aligned to the principle of “leave no one behind—the vital core of the SDGs. Political commitment at the highest level has resulted in the rapid success of the program the report said.
  • UNDP has recommended revising a few indicators that are slightly close to reaching their saturation or met by most districts like ‘electrification of households’ as an indicator of basic infrastructure.

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Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Ratan Tata, KT Thomas appointed trustees of PM CARES


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM CARES

Mains level : Issues with PM CARES

The Union government has appointed veteran industrialist Ratan Tata, former Supreme Court judge K.T. Thomas, and former Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Kariya Munda as trustees of the PM CARES Fund.


  • The PM CARES Fund was created on 28 March 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
  • The fund will be used for combat, containment and relief efforts against the coronavirus outbreak and similar pandemic like situations in the future.
  • The PM 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 is ₹10 (14¢ US).

Some intriguing facts about PM-CARES fund

  • PM CARES has been created not by law, not by notification, but by the mere creation of a webpage, and set up last year in March to raise funds for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The page lists its structure, functions and duties in an arbitrary manner.
  • The official appeals for funds are made under the national emblem.
  • The most significant lie of this sworn statement is that the Government has no control over the Fund.

The other funds

(1) National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)

  • The statutorily constituted NDRF was established under the Disaster Management (DM) Act of 2005.
  • The NDRF is mandated to be accountable, and answerable under the RTI Act, being a public authority, and auditable by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

(2) Disaster Response Fund

  • The DM Act also provided for a Disaster Response Fund — state and district level funds (besides the national level).
  • It also collects and uses the donations at the local level, with mandatory transparency and audit provisions.

(3) Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund

  • There is the PMNRF operative since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru. It was established with public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan.
  • The resources are now utilised primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities and to the victims of the major accidents and riots.
  • However, it has the President of India and the Leader of Opposition also as trustees.

Issues over PM-CARES Fund

  • No defined purpose: It is deliberately ignored while a new, controversial, unanswerable, and ‘non-accountable vehicle is created; its character is not spelt out till today.
  • Non-accountable: The government seems to consider statutory provisions for enquiry and information seeking to be embarrassing obstacles.
  • Centralization of donations: It centralises the collection of donations and its utility, which is not only against the federal character but also practically inconvenient. The issue is seeming, the trusteeship of the fund.

Questions and gaps

  • Law/statute: The PM CARES Fund was neither created by the Constitution of India nor by any statute.
  • Authority: If that is the case, under what authority does it use the designation of the Prime Minister, designated symbols of the nation, the tricolour and the official ( website of the PMO, and grant tax concessions through an ordinance.
  • Collection and dispensation: The amount received by the Fund does not go to the Consolidated Fund of India. If it goes to the CFI, it could have been audited by the CAG.
  • Uncontrolled: The This Trust is neither intended to be or is in fact owned, controlled or substantially financed by any instrumentality of the any govt even being chaired by the PM.

Issue over tax benefits

  • Income tax: An ordinance was promulgated to amend Income Tax Act, 1961 and declare that the donations to the PM CARES Fund “would qualify for 80G benefits for 100% exemption”.
  • CSR Funds: It will also qualify to be counted as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013.
  • Foreign donations: It has also got exemption under the FCRA [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act] and a separate account for receiving foreign donations has been opened.

What can be inferred from all these?

  • The Centre now considers it as another obstacle and has created a new trust with the Prime Minister and his Ministers only.
  • The manner in which the PM CARES Fund was set up — with its acronym created to publicise the point that the PM cares for people — shows a bypassing of the statutory obligations of a public authority.

Query and response: Again ironical

  • After initial denials, the Government has conceded it to be a public charitable trust, but still maintains that it is not a ‘public authority’.
  • The point is that the PMO operates the Fund, but says it cannot supply any information about the PM CARES Fund because it is not a public authority.

Severe interpretations: Is it an Office of Profit?

  • If the PM CARES Fund is unconnected with the Government, then the Fund could become an office of profit.


  • In order to uphold transparency, the PM CARES Fund should be declared as a Public Authority under the RTI Act, and all RTI queries answered truthfully.
  • The fund should be designated as a “public authority” under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.


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Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Better time for Sports in India: PM


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Sports in India

Noting that the most prestigious FIDE 44th Chess Olympiad had for the first time come to India — the home of chess — during the 75th year of freedom from colonial rule, PM Modi said there had never been a better time for sports in India.

Sports in India

  • Physical activity is fundamental to human beings:  The report states that having a fundamental right to literacy would mean identifying the intrinsic value of physical activity to human living.
  • Part of elementary education: It would mean not seeing physical activity as an end in itself, and the establishment of physical activity/ physical education as a core component of the education curriculum.
  • Supportive to other FRs: A fundamental right to physical literacy would actualise and enhance the enjoyment of other fundamental rights. It would go a long way in enhancing the opportunities and freedom to express oneself.
  • Enhancing life quality: A physically literate individual would have a more fulfilling life of higher quality than one who is not.  Physical literacy, as a building block, would go a long way in the promotion and realisation of the right to health and the right to education.
  • Religion as a barriers: Some sports like swimming and athletics require attire that does not fully cover a woman’s body and are against the laws of some religions. They are often debated in light of modesty of the sportspersons beings violated.
  • Associated social reforms: Many women perceive sports as an opportunity to escape the confines of a highly regulated life. They use it as a tool to show their potential and tackle the patriarchal mindset. Further success of sportspersons like Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, etc. have played a pivotal role in curbing the problems of child marriage and son meta preference.

Issues with Sports in India

  • Poor performance in competitions: India has the worst population to medals ratio at the Olympics. We find our medal tally at the Olympics to be hopelessly out of sync with our 1.3 billion population.
  • Regressive attitude towards sports: Our attitude towards sport and physical well-being is another debilitating factor. Traditionally, India has not been a sports nation where many deserving candidates are discouraged right at the starting level.
  • Economic divide: It hard reality which we consistently refuse to acknowledge. Athletes are not generated from the comfortable classes, they invariably come often from the middle and lower economic strata.
  • Incentivization: There is more focus on post-success incentivization rather than pre-success support in India. For instance, the Haryana Government announced a 6 crore reward after Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal in Tokyo Olympics 2020.

Significance of physical education and sports

  • Physical development: Fitness, Health
  • Mental development: It improves decision-making and collective action. It also acts as stress buster.
  • Character/ personality development: It instils confidence, team spirit, team coordination, group work)

Benefits of augmenting sports career

  • Alternative career development: For those for whom opportunities are few, and jobs are scarce, sport becomes a powerful mobility device. A strong sports sector encourages an average/ poor academic student to make a career in sports.
  • Reaping demographic dividend: India is having a very young population and is soon going to become the world’s youngest country. In such a scenario, a robust sports sector can help in reaping the potential demographic dividend.
  • Revenue generation: Developing robust sports infrastructure in the country will allow India to host a greater number of international events. Such hosting boosts tourism in the country and results in enhancing the revenue and employment in the region. Ex. IPL
  • Promotes the spirit of Unity in Diversity: People cheer for the Indian athletes and Indian teams at international events. An improvement in sports automatically fosters the spirit of brotherhood amongst the people of diverse nations. For instance, the Pan India support enjoyed by Indian cricket team enhances belongingness between India’s north and south.

Reasons for India’s poor performance

India’s below-par performance in sports can be attributed to the combination of all the factors discussed below:

  • Lack of facilities: We have thousands of education centres all over the country, but there are very few schools and colleges which have adequate facilities for any sport.
  • Regional discrepancies: The spending of money is concentrated in major cities where facilities do exist, but the broad-based structure to tap and develop talent is missing. The facilities wherever they are created are confined to a few popular games like cricket, hockey, football, tennis, etc.
  • Burden of ill-health: Mother and child health is an all-time contested issue in India. This may well be attributed to weather conditions, poor economic condition generally-due to which nutrition is not available to most of our children.
  • Narrow perception: The parents are keen that their kids should do well studies to get a degree and ultimately fetch a good job. Playing for long hours regularly is considered a waste of time.
  • Lesser academia for physical education: There are few Sports Colleges which are genuinely making efforts to produce national-level sportsmen, but their number is so small that no perceptible impact is seen due to their existence.
  • Lack of training: Another reason for our poor performance in sports is the lack of required number of trainers, coaches and psychotherapists. There is also a dearth of quality coaching or the qualified coaches.
  • Non-interest: The west often accuse that Indians lack the killer’s instinct. The zest and enthusiasm necessary to win over the opponent is naturally absent in the Indian psyche.
  • Obsession for few sports: There is no doubt that cricket and hockey plays a major unifying role in India. However, other sports and sportsperson are often discouraged due to such obsessions.
  • Performance anxiety: A high degree of pressure is inflicted upon a sportsperson to perform or else be prepared to live a vulnerable life. This sometimes creates excessive mental stress in them or induces them to resort to unethical means like doping.

Various initiatives for sports promotion

The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports has formulated the following schemes to promote sports in the country, including in rural, tribal and backward areas:

  1. Khelo India Scheme
  2. Assistance to National Sports Federations
  3. Special Awards to Winners in International sports events and their Coaches
  4. National Sports Awards, Pension to Meritorious Sports Persons
  5. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay National Sports Welfare Fund
  6. National Sports Development Fund; and
  7. Running Sports Training Centres through Sports Authority of India

Way forward

  • Sports is a state subject and therefore uniformity in sports-specific activities of various states in India is extremely important for providing equal sporting opportunities to all the citizens of the country.
  • We have to take collective action to create a system and a proper environment whereby the young talent is spotted and developed in right earnest.
  • Integration of sports with education to introduce sports culture in India is the need of the hour.
  • The allocation of funds to sport, as a percentage of budget, can be increased for broad-basing sports in this country.
  • There is also a need to develop a culture in whole country by spreading awareness in society by telling benefit of sports in life.



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Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

What are Padma Awards?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Padma Awards

Mains level : National Honours

The central government has announced the names of Padma awardees for this year.

What are Padma awards?

  • The Padma awards are the highest civilian honor of India after the Bharat Ratna.
  • They are announced every year on the eve of Republic Day.
  • The awards are given in three categories:
  1. Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service)
  2. Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order) and
  3. Padma Shri (distinguished service)
  • The award seeks to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.

Note: During the years 1978 and 1979 and 1993 to 1997, Padma awards were not announced.

Who are the awardees?

  • The awards are given in certain select categories which include Art, Social Work, Public Affairs, Science & Engineering, Trade & Industry, Medicine, Literature & Education, Civil Service and Sports.
  • Awards are also given for propagation of Indian culture, protection of human rights, wild life protection among others.

Its constitution

  • The PADMA Awards were instituted in 1954 along with Bharat Ratna.
  • At that time only Padma Vibhushan existed with three sub-categories – Pahela Varg, Dusra Varg and Tisra Varg.
  • These were subsequently renamed as Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri vide Presidential Notification issued on January 8, 1955.

Particulars of the awards

  • The awardees do not get any cash reward but a certificate signed by the President apart from a medallion which they can wear at public and government functions.
  • The awards are, however, not a conferment of title and the awardees are expected to not use them as prefix or suffix to their names.
  • A Padma awardee can be given a higher award only after five years of the conferment of the earlier award.

Terms of awarding

  • Not more than 120 awards can be given in a year but this does not include posthumous awards or awards given to NRIs and foreigners.
  • The award is normally not conferred posthumously.
  • However, in highly deserving cases, the Government could consider giving an award posthumously.

Who is eligible for Padma awards?

  • All persons without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex are eligible for these awards.
  • However, government servants including those working with PSUs, except doctors and scientists, are not eligible for these awards.
  • The award seeks to recognize works of distinction and is given for distinguished and exceptional achievements or service in all fields of activities and disciplines.
  • According to Padma awards selection criteria, the award is given for “special services” and not just for “long service”.
  • It should not be merely excellence in a particular field, but the criteria has to be ‘excellence plus’.

Who nominates the awardees?

  • Any citizen of India can nominate a potential recipient.
  • One can even nominate one’s own self. All nominations are to be done online where a form is to be filled along with details of the person or the organisation being nominated.
  • An 800-word essay detailing the work done by the potential awardee is also to be submitted for the nomination to be considered.
  • The government also writes to various state governments, governors, Union territories, central ministries and various departments to send nominations.

Who selects the awardees?

  • All nominations received for Padma awards are placed before the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year.
  • The Padma Awards Committee is headed by the Cabinet Secretary and includes Home Secretary, Secretary to the President and four to six eminent persons as members.
  • The recommendations of the committee are submitted to the Prime Minister and the President of India for approval.
  • The antecedents of the selected awardees are verified using the services of central agencies to ensure nothing untoward has been reported or come on record about them.
  • A final list is then prepared and announced.

Is the recipient’s consent sought?

  • There is no provision for seeking a written or formal consent of the recipient before the announcement of the award.
  • However, before the announcement, every recipient receives a call from the Ministry of Home Affairs informing him or her about the selection.
  • In case the recipient expresses a desire to be excluded from the award list, the name is removed.


Try this question from CSP 2021

Q.Consider the following statements in respect of Bharat Ratna and Padma Awards

  1. Bharat Ratna and Padma Awards are titles under the Article 18(1) of the Constitution of India.
  2. Padma wards, which were instituted in the year 1954, were suspended only once.
  3. The number of Bharat Ratna Awards is restricted to a maximum of five in a particular year.

Which of the above statements are not correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Post your answers here.
Please leave a feedback on thisx


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Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

What is Gati Shakti Master Plan?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gati Shakti Master Plan

Mains level : Infrastructure development

In his I-day speech, the PM has announced a ₹100 lakh crore “Gati Shakti” infrastructure plan.

What is Gati Shakti Master Plan?

  • The PM has pegged the project as a source of employment opportunities for the youth in the future.
  • The plan will make a foundation for holistic infrastructure and give an integrated pathway to our economy.
  • More details and the launch date of the project are awaited.

What are the focus areas of the project?

  • The Gati Shakti plan will help raise the global profile of local manufacturers and help them compete with their counterparts worldwide.
  • It also raises possibilities of new future economic zones.
  • The PM also said that India needs to increase both manufacturing and exports.

Why need such a plan?

  • The push for infrastructure is in line with the government’s efforts to step up capital expenditure in infrastructure to promote economic growth.
  • Infrastructure development has the ability to create a multiplier effect with every rupee invested, yielding much higher returns.

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National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Quality of Life for Elderly Index


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quality of Life for Elderly Index

Mains level : Old age security

Quality of Life for Elderly Index was released by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM).

Quality of Life for Elderly Index

The Index has been created by the Institute for Competitiveness at the request of EAC-PM and it sheds light on an issue often not mentioned- problems faced by the elderly.

  • The report identifies the regional patterns of ageing across the Indian States and assesses the overall ageing situation in India.
  • The report presents a deeper insight into how well India is doing to support the well-being of its ageing population.
  • The Index framework includes four pillars:
  1. Financial Well-being
  2. Social Well-being
  3. Health System and
  4. Income Security
  • It has eight sub-pillars: Economic Empowerment, Educational Attainment & Employment, Social Status, Physical Security, Basic Health, Psychological Wellbeing, Social Security and Enabling Environment.

Features of the index

  • This index broadens the way we understand the needs and opportunities of the elderly population in India.
  • It goes far beyond the adequacy of pensions and other forms of income support, which, though critical, often narrows policy thinking and debate about the needs of this age group.
  • The index highlights that the best way to improve the lives of the current and future generations of older people is by investing in health, education and employment for young people today.

Why need such an index?

  • India is often portrayed as a young society, with a consequent demographic dividend.
  • But, as with every country that goes through a fast process of demographic transition, India also has greying cum aging problem.
  • Without a proper diagnostic tool to understand the implications of its ageing population, planning for the elderly can become a challenge for policymakers.

Key Highlights from the Report:

  • The Health System pillar observes the highest national average, 66.97 at an all-India level, followed by 62.34 in Social Well-being.
  • Financial Well-being observes a score of 44.7, which is lowered by the low performance of 21 States across the Education Attainment & Employment pillar, which showcases scope for improvement
  • States have performed particularly worse in the Income Security pillar because over half of the States have a score below the national average, i.e., 33.03 in Income Security, which is the lowest across all pillars.

Performance of the states

  • Among all the states, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are top-scoring regions in the aged states and relatively aged states categories.
  • Rajasthan has a score of 54.61 in the aged states category while Himachal Pradesh has a score of 61.04 in relatively aged states.
  • Mizoram has a score of 59.79 among northeastern states while Chandigarh scored 63.78 among the Union Territories.
  • Jammu and Kashmir scored the lowest 46.16 among Union Territories.
  • Arunachal Pradesh, among the northeastern states, scored the lowest score with 46.16.
  • In the aged states and relatively aged states categories, Telangana and Gujarat scored the lowest with 38.19 and 49.00, respectively.

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Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates



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.

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

SPG protection


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SPG

Mains level : Security issues associated with VIPs

  • The Union government is expected to take away the security cover by Special Protection Group (SPG) being provided at present to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.
  • They will, however, continue to get a Z+ security cover, where they will be provided commandos belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

How are security levels decided?

  • The Union Home Ministry takes this call after evaluating the inputs from all the intelligence agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
  • However, since none of the intelligence agencies is accountable to any external statutory body, barring internal oversight by ministries of Home and Foreign Affairs, the issue of security cover is open to manipulation.

What are the various levels of protection?

  • There are largely six types of security covers: X, Y, Y plus, Z, Z plus and SPG.
  • While SPG is meant only for the PM and his immediate family, other categories can be provided to anyone about whom the Centre or state governments have inputs about facing a threat.
  • X category: This on an average entails just one gunman protecting the individual;
  • Y category: It has one gunman for mobile security and one (plus four on rotation) for static security; Y plus has two policemen on rotation for security and one (plus four on rotation) for residence security;
  • Z category: It has six gunmen for mobile security and two (plus eight) for residence security; Z plus has 10 security personnel for mobile security and two (plus eight) for residence security.
  • There are various kinds of covers within these levels as well.

Who are the SPG? Whom do they protect?

  • The SPG is an elite force, specifically raised for the protection of the country’s PM, former PMs and their immediate family.
  • The force is currently 3,000 strong. If the Gandhis lose the SPG cover, PM Modi will be the only one under the SPG’s protection.
  • The SPG is highly trained in physical efficiency, marksmanship, combat and proximate protection tactics and is assisted by all central and state agencies to ensure foolproof security.
  • SPG Special Agents assigned to the PM security detail wear black, Western-style formal business suits, with sunglasses, and carry a two-way encrypted communication earpiece, and concealed handguns.
  • The SPG also has special operations commandos who carry ultra-modern assault rifles and wear dark-visor sunglasses with inbuilt communication earpieces, bulletproof vests, gloves and elbow/knee pads.

When was SPG raised? What is its history?

  • The SPG was started in 1985 in the wake of the killing of PM Indira Gandhi in 1984.
  • When V P Singh came to power in 1989, his government withdrew SPG protection given to his predecessor Rajiv Gandhi.
  • But after Rajiv’s assassination in 1991, the SPG Act was amended to offer protection to all former PMs and their families for at least 10 years.
  • In 2003, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government again amended the SPG Act to bring the period of automatic protection down from 10 years to “a period of one year.
  • It is from the date on which the former PM ceased to hold office” and beyond one year based on the level of threat as decided by the government.
  • During the Vajpayee regime, the SPG cover of former PMs such as H D Deve Gowda, I K Gujaral and P V Narasimha Rao were withdrawn.

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Explained: The PM’s Economic Advisory Council — role and evolution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMEAC

Mains level : Role and functions of the EAC

  • The government has reconstituted the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PMEAC or EAC-PM).
  • Bibek Debroy, who was appointed Chairman of the Council in 2017, continues in his post.


  • The PMEAC was set up “with a view to provide a sounding board for inculcating awareness in government on the different point of view on key economic issues”.
  • Its functions included analysing any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the PM and advising him thereon.
  • It aimed at addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister”, either on its own or upon reference; and presenting to the PM from time to time reports on “macroeconomic developments and issues with implications for economic policy”.

Its inception

  • PM Indira Gandhi, who had returned to power in 1980, faced formidable economic challenges.
  • The global oil shock and drought had led to a decline in the national income, and soaring prices.
  • In this situation, Finance Minister R Venkataraman stressed to the PM the need to arrest the slide and set the economy on the path to stability and growth.
  • Indira decided to rope in Prof Sukhamoy Chakravarty, a man who had taught alongside Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh at the Delhi School of Economics, and who had, in the mid-1970s, headed the Policy Perspective Division in the Planning Commission.

Early years

  • In the initial years of its existence, the members of the Council included the famed economist K N Raj, besides C Rangarajan, who would later become the Governor of the RBI.
  • Vijay Kelkar was the first Secretary of the PMEAC during 1982-83.
  • Chakravarty who briefed the Prime Minister occasionally on the state of the economy, continued in the post after Rajiv Gandhi succeeded Indira in 1984.

First case of reference

  • Around 1986-87 the government had opened up the economy a little and allowed liberal foreign borrowings while spending to boost growth.
  • The Council made a presentation to the PM flagging emerging faultlines, and warning of an emerging fiscal imbalance.
  • Rajiv acknowledged the input, and announced that the government had decided to accept the report of a committee appointed in 1985 by then RBI Governor Manmohan Singh to review the working of the monetary system and Budget deficit.

The 1990s

  • Manmohan Singh himself headed the Council briefly when Chandra Shekhar was Prime Minister, before moving on to become Advisor to the PM in the months leading to the balance of payments crisis of 1991.
  • Bimal Jalan, who was finance secretary in the V P Singh government and, for a while in the Chandra Shekhar government as well, was moved to head the Council.
  • When P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, and Manmohan Singh his Finance Minister, the Council held only a few meetings.

The Vajpayee years

  • Things changed after Vajpayee became PM for the second time in 1998.
  • The economy was again in trouble after the Asian crisis, and the PMEAC was expanded with the Prime Minister himself at its head.
  • A 12-member Council for Trade and Industry was also appointed. Vajpayee’s PMEAC had heavyweights such as I G Patel, the former RBI Governor; P N Dhar, a former Secretary in Indira’s PMO; and noted economists.
  • At a meeting of the Council in July 2002, Vajpayee unveiled an economic agenda for 8% growth — featuring plans to provide 10 million job opportunities annually, re-target subsidies and spending.
  • Through this period, the Finance Ministry remained dominant in economic policymaking.

The Manmohan years

  • After he became PM in 2004, Manmohan Singh, conscious that he could no longer afford to focus on multiple economic issues, got his former RBI colleague Rangarajan to head the PMEAC.
  • The EAC by this time was more compact, with fewer than a half-dozen members. The Council was seen as the advisory group best equipped to provide independent advice to the PM.
  • During the 2004-14 decade, the Council often brought out its own review of the economy, besides reports on a range of issues.
  • Singh’s Council was the most influential in the over three-decade history of the institution.
  • It drew its strength, most importantly, from the confidence and trust that the economist PM had in the head of the Council.

Revival in 2017

  • One of the early decisions that the new government under PM Modi took was to dismantle the Planning Commission.
  • However, the PMEAC was not restructured under the new government.
  • The Council was later reconstituted during first Modi government, with Debroy, then a member of the NITI Aayog, as chairman.
  • The revived PMEAC had economists Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy, and Ashima Goyal as members, and former finance secretary Ratan Watal as Secretary.

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Special Protection Group (SPG) Cover


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SPG

Mains level : Not Much

  • The government is likely to withdraw the Special Protection Group (SPG) from a former Prime Minister’s security detail.

Special Protection Group

  • The SPG was set up in 1985 after the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi, and Parliament passed the SPG Act in 1988 dedicating the group to protecting the Prime Ministers of India.
  • At the time, the Act did not include former Prime Ministers, and when V.P. Singh came to power in 1989 his government withdrew SPG protection to the outgoing PM Rajiv Gandhi.
  • After Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 the SPG Act was amended, offering SPG protection to all former Prime Ministers and their families for a period of at least 10 years.
  • The SPG cover would only be reduced on the basis of threat levels as defined in the SPG Act of 1988.
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