Updated: September 20, 2020 2:55:24 am
Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra launched a fierce attack on the PM Cares Fund in Lok Sabha on Saturday, arguing that it takes away statutory promises made under the GST regime, and corners public funds to the detriment of state relief funds.
She said PSUs competing to donate money to PM Cares are like “courtiers of the Emperor, competing with each other to give gifts with public funds”.
She also slammed the government for accepting funds from Chinese companies and said no “dying Indian would want to be on a ventilator paid for by enemy money.”
Speaking during the debate on Taxation and other Laws (Relaxation & Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, Moitra said, “The Centre cannot run away from its responsibility. It must cover up Rs 2.35 lakh crore by borrowing. I ask myself in such a situation: is incompetence post majeure (an event or effect that can be neither anticipated nor controlled)? Is criminal negligence post majeure?”
She said that the “insidious objective of the Bill” is to give blanket clearance “with no accountability” to PM Cares Fund.
The TMC leader said: “Unfair treatment of identical contributions to PM Cares and to the state relief funds is against public interest, against public policy, completely disincentivises corporate contributions which the state governments otherwise would have got…. The honourable minister, while introducing the Bill yesterday, read out a long list of schoolchildren and pensioners who had readily given away their meagre savings to the PM Cares (Fund). But the honourable minister was strangely silent on the 38 PSUs that donated more than Rs 2,100 crore to the Fund. More than 70 per cent of the Fund’s corpus comes from these 38 donations.
“These are PSUs – (donating) out of public money. Without an audit, the conflict of interest is writ large for anyone to see…
“The PM Cares Fund diverts funds from local communities into this dark hole where not even a speck of light can enter. Coal India has committed Rs 221 crore to a fund, while it cannot contribute to the state relief funds of West Bengal and Jharkhand, where it has 90 per cent of its operations…it’s almost like the courtiers of the emperor are competing with each other to give gifts to the emperor with public funds,” she said.
On donations received from Chinese firms, she said, “If these improprieties weren’t enough, please consider the massive donations from Chinese companies. This is horrific. Xiaomi, accused of snooping on people, gave (PM Cares) Fund Rs 10 crore. Tik Tok, currently banned by this government, gave Rs 30 crore. Huawei, banned around the world for its well-documented links to the Chinese army, gave Rs 10 crore. Why did you take this money from our enemies? Why don’t you return this tainted money?
“I am sure no dying Indian would want to be on a ventilator paid for by enemy money at this time. The dangers of these foreign donations are amplified by the fact that the PM Cares Fund is exempt from FCRA regulations, even though it doesn’t meet the precondition of a body whose funds are audited by the CAG.”
Moitra questioned the need to set up a fund similar to PMNRF in the name of the Prime Minister and said, “Prime Ministers will come and go but the existence of a fund is not up for discussion. What is this need to name everything after one individual? What is this need? This is a democracy. This is not an elected autocracy. We need to remind this government.”
Stating that the Fund is raising money on the basis of public office, the Trinamool MP said, “The very name – PM Fund – makes people think this is government authority. By saying it is not under RTI, you are running away from the claim of transparency you seem to be wedded to. Second, Cabinet ministers are trustees administering the funds. You are impermissibly expanding the scope of your ministerial office in excess of the mandate determined by the constitution….
“In this atmosphere of fear and vengeance prevalent in this country, which public officer will say they do not wish to donate,” Moitra asked.
She said that the government “must stop lying all the time” about the growth rate, expenditure and the “laughable delusion that the PM cares. “Today’s India reminds me of Hans Christian Anderson’s stories of the emperor’s new clothes, where the emperor was cloaked in nothing, but the sycophantic courtiers could not tell him so.”
She said: “The Bengali poet, Dhirendra Nath Chakraborty, in his poem ‘Ulongo Raja (The Naked King)’ said only one small innocent boy in the entire kingdom had the courage to stand up and ask the naked emperor, “Raja, tor kapod koi?” Today, I ask the same question: Emperor, where are your clothes?”
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