As the COVID-19 outbreak hits the economy, the government has decided to accept contributions from abroad, “irrespective of their nationalities”, to the newly-established Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund, sources said on Wednesday.
This would mean that foreign governments, NGOs, and nationals can now contribute to the Fund. This is a major policy change since New Delhi has not accepted foreign aid in the past 16 years since the then UPA government under Manmohan Singh decided to not accept aid from foreign sources.
Sources said this is an “unprecedented situation”. “So, the government took this decision”, the source said, adding that it was not “aid”. Sources also underlined that the foreign contribution is “only” applicable to the PM-CARES fund and not any other fund, like the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
The source said PM-CARES was set up following requests from India and abroad from individuals and organisations willing to make contributions to support the government in its fight against COVID-19. “In view of the interest expressed to contribute to the government’s efforts, as well as keeping in mind the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, contributions to the trust can be done by individuals and organisations, both in India and abroad,” the source said.
In 2018, the government refused to accept foreign aid to flood-ravaged Kerala since it was following the disaster aid policy set in December 2004.
After a tsunami hit India in December 2004, the government felt that it could cope up on its own. Since then, Delhi had followed the policy of not accepting aid from foreign governments.
PM-CARES, which was set up as a public charitable trust with the trust deed registered on March 27, is meant for supporting “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”. The emphasis on ‘public health’ and ‘healthcare’ make it an appropriate vehicle to deal with the outbreak. The PM-CARES has the Prime Minister as chairperson, and the Defence Minister, Home Minister, Finance Minister and three trustees nominated by the Prime Minister “who shall be eminent persons in the field of research, health, science, social work, law, public administration and philanthropy”.
PM-CARES is different from PMNRF, which was created in 1948. It was founded against the backdrop of the situation arising out of Partition and was used for relief and rehabilitation of refugees from Pakistan who came to India. It was registered as a trust in 1973 with responsibilities of the trustees not clearly defined. The resources of PMNRF are now utilised primarily to provide relief to families of those killed in natural calamities. Donations to both funds can avail 100 per cent tax exemption.
(with inputs from Krishn Kaushik)
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