Of late several surreptitious actions of the union government have come up on the public domain. These are:
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image with the message: “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas; Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas” appearing as footer on all official emails from the Supreme Court of India, without its knowledge or permission.
The Supreme Court registry had on September 23 evening been alerted by some people that its outgoing emails were being appended with Modi’s photo and the “sabka saath” slogan.On September 24 morning, after the matter came to the attention of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, the NIC was told to remove the footer immediately and all its senior officials were pulled up, court sources had said. The NIC had obliged within an hour, they had added. The Supreme Court by acting swiftly to get Modi’s image and the message from its email footers deleted, publicly ensured that the independence of the Judiciary from the Executive was not seen to have been compromised, especially in view of the fact that the central government was the biggest litigant before the top court.
Similar imprint of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image on all Covid vaccine certificates. Did Modiji do the R&D for indigenous development of Covishield and Covaxin vaccines, including Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D (reportedly to be launched in October 2021)? The credit for this goes entirely to our scientists/Department of Biotechnology. In this connection, a joke doing rounds in the social media reads: "U.S. Immigration officials say that an Indian man has arrived for the first time with a Vaccination Certificate with `his own' photo on it!"
PM Modi's image should be removed forthwith from Anti-Covid Vaccine certificates and if at all, be replaced with the images of our Covid Warriors many of whom laid down their lives while fighting the virus from the front line.
An affidavit dated 23.09.2021 in Delhi High Court by an Under Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that the PM CARES Fund is not a Government of India fund; that the amount collected by it does not go to the Consolidated Fund of India; and that it is outside the ambit of Right to Information (RTI). A petitioner Samayak Gangwal, filed a writ petition challenging the PMO's order rejecting his RTI application stating that PM CARES was not a "public authority" within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. (Source: The HANS India 28.09.2021). The case is in progress.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “sabka saath” slogan, appended to outgoing emails National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), without its knowledge or permission. The NHRC official said the apex rights organisation had been clueless about the matter, till Shri R. Balaji, The Telegraph Online correspondent drew attention to it on Wednesday 29th September 2021 evening, since only the receivers of the mails and not their writers could see the footer with Modi’s picture and the slogan. “Now that you have brought the matter to us, we will take it up with our chairperson, Justice Arun Mishra,” the NHRC official, who declined to be named, told The Telegraph.
Let us throw some light on PM CARES Fund.
WHAT IS PM CARE FUND?
The website https://www.pmindia.gov.in/en/about-pm-cares-fund/ reads: “Keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected, a public charitable trust under the name of `Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund)’ has been set up.”
If one clicks Donate Online icon, the following message appears with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photograph on the top screen:
“PM-CARES fund is aimed at strengthening the fight against Covid-19. It will further availability of quality treatment and encourage research on ways to beat Coronavirus. I urge people from all walks of life to contribute to PM-CARES. Together let’s solve the challenges of the present and protect the future.”
Then it guides prospective donor to the various modes of Domestic and Foreign Donations. It also stipulates “Contributions once processed cannot be cancelled or refunded.”
CONSTITUTION OF THE PM CARE TRUST
- PM CARES Fund was registered as a Public Charitable Trust under the Registration Act 1908 at New Delhi on 27th March, 2020.
- Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
- The Chairperson of the Board of Trustees (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.
- Any person appointed a Trustee shall act in a pro bono capacity.
Readers please note, the entire board of Trustees is controlled by the Prime Minister and his core cabinet members namely Home, Defence and Finance Ministers.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE FUND
- The Fund is administered on honorary basis by a Joint Secretary (Administration) in the PMO as Secretary to the Fund. He/she is assisted on honorary basis by an Officer of the rank of Director/Deputy Secretary (Administration) in the PMO which provides such administrative and secretarial support to the Trustees for the management and administration of the Trust, as may be required by the above-mentioned Trustees.
- The Head of the Fund is Prime Minister’s Office (read Prime Minister), South Block, New Delhi.
- The entire fund is voluntary contributions from individuals/organizations and does not get any budgetary support. The fund will be utilised in meeting the objectives as stated above.
- Donations to PM CARES Fund would qualify for 80G benefits for 100% exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961. Donations to PM CARES Fund will also qualify as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013.
- PM CARES Fund is also exempt under the FCRA and a separate account for receiving foreign donations has been opened. This enables PM CARES Fund to accept donations and contributions from individuals and organizations based in foreign countries.
- The Fund is also exempted from paying Income Tax as per Section 10 (23)(c) of Income Tax Act, 1961.
- The Trustees of the PM CARES have powers to formulate rules/criteria for carrying out any of the objectives of the Trust.
- As per the PM CARE website, during 2019-20 (from 27th March to 31st March, 2020), an amount of Rs. 3076.62 Crore has been collected under PM CARES Fund.
A close look at the above information gives rise to the following elementary questions from the Aam Aadmi:
1. Whose baby is it then?
2. Why is the prefix PM being used? If it isn't Prime Minister, what does the acroymn PM stand for?
3. Why then is our Prime Minister its ex-officio Chairman and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees?
4. Why is it given special preference to get IT, FCRA and RTI exemptions when so many bona fide NGOs are running from pillar to post just to get their FCRA accounts renewed (many of their on-going projects have been hampered)?
5. If it is not a government fund, how is it using the domain name `gov’ and flaunting the prime minister’s face, his message, including our President, the two houses, GOI Web Directory and MyGov on its website https://www.pmindia.gov.in/en/about-pm-cares-fund?
6. What was the need for a separate PM CARE Fund? The objectives of the fund could easily have been met by the existing Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF). The resources of PMNRF are utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots, to partially defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment and acid attack etc. This fund also consists entirely of public contributions. Disbursements are made with the approval of the Prime Minister. PMNRF operates from the Prime Minister’s Office, South Block, New Delhi-110011 just as PM CARES does.
The above surresptitious methods of the government forbodes ominous days. Are we in for a Police State? The outcome of the PM CARES and Pegasus cases will be an indicator. Let's hope the concerned judges dealing with the cases will not be abruptly transferred or meet the hit-and-run fate of Uttam Anand, the Dhanbad judge.