At a time when the diaspora is increasingly becoming a part of public diplomacy, the Swachh Bharat Kosh (SBK) for the central government’s flagship cleanliness campaign received contributions totalling Rs 777.4 crore in five years — but only Rs 13.79 lakh came from “foreign sources”, RTI records accessed by The Indian Express show.
RTI data from April 1, 2015, to January 20, 2020, provided by the Department of Expenditure under the Finance Ministry, shows that the contribution from “foreign sources” was “Nil” in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2019-20 (until January 20, 2020). It shows that Rs 3.79 lakh was received in 2017-18 and Rs 10 lakh the year after.
In total, the fund had Rs 158.29 crore on December 17, 2019, the data shows.
Referring to contributions from “foreign sources”, the department, which is the nodal point for SBK, stated that “all foreign contributions are received in an exclusive designated bank account held in State Bank of India”.
In its RTI response, the department said that the Chief Controller of Accounts (Finance) “is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining accounts” of the SBK Trust. “Mostly, foreign contribution is received through designated agencies such as Consulate General of India in various countries… Certain contributions are made directly to the designated bank account (maintained in SBI),” it said.
The SBK Trust was registered on April 24, 2015, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a call on August 15, 2014, to achieve the objective of Swachh Bharat by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi.
In order to facilitate contributions from foreign sources, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) gave the Trust exemptions under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA) on the condition that “all foreign contributions would be received in an exclusive bank account only.”
The MHA order, dated June 16, 2016, also said that “a separate set of accounts and records in respect of the foreign contribution received and utilised would be maintained”.
On February 20, 2019, the MEA responded to an RTI query from The Indian Express to state that it had transferred until then Rs 3.59 crore to SBK from the India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI).
Created in 2008 as a not-for-profit Trust to facilitate overseas Indian philanthropy for social and development projects in India, the IDF-OI was administered by a Board of Trustees chaired by the Minister of External Affairs.
But a message posted on the official Facebook page of IDF-OI on March 23, 2018, states: “With a view to enhancing synergies to channelise diaspora’s contributions to Government’s flagship programmes such as Namami Gange and Swachh Bharat Mission via Clean Ganga Fund and Swachh Bharat Kosh, a decision has been taken for closure of IDF-OI by March 31, 2018. Therefore, IDF-OI is no longer accepting contributions from overseas Indians. However, overseas Indians may contribute directly to Swachh Bharat Kosh and Clean Ganga Mission…”
RTI data of December 2018 show that the biggest chunk of contribution in the SBK came from PSUs, such as Power Finance Corporation (Rs 49.24 crore), and private sources and companies such as the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (Rs 100 crore) and Larsen & Toubro (Rs 60 crore).
On October 21, 2014, the Department of Public Enterprises had issued an order, stating that PSUs can list contributions to SBK under their CSR initiative.
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