MAHARATNAS TO navratnas, energy giants to power majors, 38 PSUs have dipped into their Corporate Social Responsibility funds to together contribute over Rs 2,105 crore to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) fund since it was launched on March 28, records accessed by The Indian Express under the RTI Act show.
The fund, which was set up following the Covid outbreak, had a corpus of Rs 3,076.62 crore on March 31, 2020, of which Rs 3,075.85 crore was listed as “voluntary contributions”, according to its official website.
The Indian Express sent RTI queries to 55 PSUs and received, until August 13, responses from 38, which showed that they contributed a total of Rs 2,105.38 crore over the past five months from budget allocations in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.
Significantly, on May 28, replying to a query from The Indian Express on the contributions received, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) did not furnish details, saying: “PM Cares Fund is not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. However, relevant information in respect of PM CARES Fund may be seen on the website pmcares.gov.in.”
The website does not identify the contributors or provide details of contributions. Subsequently, responding to an appeal by The Indian Express, the PMO’s appellate authority said on June 24: “No information can be provided to you in this matter.”
However, replies sent by the PSUs show that in many cases, they donated from their unused allocation for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities for 2019-2020 to the fund that was launched with just four days left for the financial year to end.
In other cases, they contributed from this year’s CSR budget although the total allocation hadn’t been finalised yet. And in at least one case, a PSU acknowledged that it had contributed more than the estimate allocated for such activities.
Among the 38, the top donor (see chart) is Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) with Rs 300 crore.
ONGC is among the PSUs that have already dipped into this year’s CSR budget even though they acknowledged that the “budget allocation” for 2020-21 is “yet to be determined”. HPCL, too, said it has contributed Rs 120 crore from the CSR allocation for 2020-21, which is yet to be finalised.
The Power Finance Corporation, meanwhile, contributed more than its total CSR allocation for 2020-21. In its RTI response, it said that the CSR fund “allocated (on estimation basis)” for the year was Rs 150.28 crore but its contribution for 2020-21 was Rs 200 crore.
There are others who contributed from allocations for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.
OIL India Limited said it contributed Rs 13 crore and Rs 25 crore, respectively, and Power Grid Corporation Rs 130 crore and Rs 70 crore. Rural Electrification Corporation contributed Rs 100 crore from its 2019-20 allocation of Rs 156.68 crore and Rs 50 crore from its 2020-21 “estimated” allocation of Rs 152 crore.
Even the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which is involved in efforts to revive the aviation industry, chipped in. It contributed Rs 15 crore out of its allocation of Rs 83.79 crore for 2019-20.
In its reply, BSNL said it “has not earned net profit for the financial year 2015-16 to 2018-19. Accordingly, BSNL has not undertaken any CSR initiative from 2015-16 till date”.
SAIL responded that it has allocated an amount of Rs 33 crore “towards ongoing CSR activities” as “net profit of last three years has been nil.”