Since its inception on March 28, the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) fund has received a total of Rs 204.75 crore in contribution from staff salaries of the central bank, seven public sector banks and seven other leading financial institutions and insurers, according to data accessed by the Indian Express through RTI applications.
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office had said that the PM CARES fund is not a public authority under section 2 (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, and therefore it would not be able to divulge information regarding it under RTI.
While the contributions deducted from salaries of employees were supposed to be ‘voluntary’, government circulars showed that donation amounts were directly deducted from the salaries. In case someone was unwilling to make the contribution, they had to submit their refusal in writing to concerned authorities, which has raised questions regarding the fairness of the process.
Moreover, the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC) and National Housing Bank together contributed over Rs 144.5 crore from their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) allocation and other provisions. Adding this, the total contribution by the 15 government banks and institutions go up to Rs 349.25 crore, according to the RTI responses received by the Indian Express.
LIC topped the list of 15 public sector contributors with a donation of Rs 113.63 crore to PM CARES under various categories--Rs 8.64 crore from staff salaries, Rs 100 crore under “Corporate Communication” and Rs 5 crore under “Golden Jubilee Foundation”, as per the RTI responses.
The State Bank of India, India’s largest lender, is the top contributor among the public sector banks with an amount over 107.95 crore. SBI said that its contribution entirely consists of the salaries of its staff members. The Reserve Bank of India, too, said its Rs 7.34-crore contribution was from employee salaries, according to the RTI replies by the institutions.
Among other banks, some specified details on the source of the contributions, such as employee salaries, and some did not, such as the Canara Bank. The list of contributing public sector entities who replied to the RTI applications include Canara Bank (Rs 15.53 crore), Union Bank of India (Rs 14.81 crore), Central Bank of India (Rs 11.89 crore), Bank of Maharashtra (Rs 5 crore), Small Industries Development Bank of India (Rs 80 lakh), GIC (Rs 14.51 lakh, IRDAI, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, (Rs 16.08 lakh), National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) (Rs 9.04 crore), amd National Housing Bank (Rs 3.82 lakh).
Apart from LIC, CSR contributions were made by GIC with Rs 22.8 crore, SIDBI with Rs 14.2 crore and, National Housing Bank with Rs 2.5 crore.
PM CARES was set up on March 28 this year as a national relief fund after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund. Till March 31, the fund received donations amounting to Rs. 3076.62 crore, as per its official website, and within this, Rs 3,075.85 crore was listed as “voluntary contributions.”