From the largest government employer Railways to the Department of Space, 50 departments under the Centre have contributed Rs 157.23 crore from staff salaries to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) fund, RTI records accessed by The Indian Express show. Topping the list with Rs 146.72 crore, the Railways said in its RTI response that the amount “has been contributed to PM CARES Fund through contribution from employees”.
Based on RTI responses received, the Department of Space is next on this list with over Rs 5.18 crore. In its response, the department stated: “Contribution made by employees is in their individual capacity…through their salary”. However, several key departments, such as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), those under the Ministry of Home Affairs, and large employers such as the Department of Posts, did not respond to RTI queries from The Indian Express.
The PMO, which also manages the fund, had earlier declined to furnish details of the contributions received. “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,” it said in an RTI response.
The fund was set up on March 28 this year following the Covid outbreak and had a corpus of Rs 3,076.62 crore by March 31 itself, of which Rs 3,075.85 crore were listed as “voluntary contributions”, according to the website.
So far, RTI queries filed by The Indian Express have revealed contributions of Rs 2,105 crore by 38 PSUs from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds — and Rs 204.75 crore from seven public banks and other financial institutions, apart from Rs 21.81 crore by several central educational institutions, all from staff salaries.
The data on central government departments is based on RTI responses received until Tuesday to queries sent from August to September. There are 89 departments under 59 ministries — 50 of them, under 43 ministries, responded to the RTI queries.
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Department of Agriculture Research and Education (DARE) and Department of Pharmaceuticals denied the information. DBT said the information “may not serve any public interest”; DARE stated that it is “third party information”; and, the Department of Pharmaceuticals echoed the PMO’s line: “PM Cares Fund is not a public authority under RTI Act.”
Some of the departments forwarded the RTI query to the PMO, which reiterated that the fund is “not a public authority” under the Act. In other responses, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change contributed Rs 1.14 crore from staff salaries. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated that Rs 43.26 lakh “has been deducted during the period March to August 2020 from the salary of the officials on the pay rolls of the Ministry” for the fund.
As part of its RTI response, the MEA attached a tweet dated April 4 by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla stating that “MEA’s contribution” to PM CARES has “gone up to Rs 2.2 crore”. However, the response did not specify whether the contribution was from staff salaries or other sources.
The Department of Defence, under the Ministry of Defence (Civil), said its staff contributed Rs 26.20 lakh from salaries while employees from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare chipped in with Rs 18.51 lakh.
The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, which comprises three departments and functions directly under the Prime Minister, responded that it contributed Rs 16.91 lakh from staff salaries. And employees of the President’s Secretariat chipped in with Rs 12.05 lakh.
Apart from the 50 departments that together contributed Rs 157.23 crore, employees of the secretariats of Lok Sabha (Rs 52.54 lakh) and Rajya Sabha (Rs 36.39 lakh) contributed to the fund from their salaries.
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