New Delhi: Government-run listed firms have contributed at least Rs 2,913.6 crore between 2019-20 and 2021-22 to the controversial Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund, according to an analysis by Business Standard of the data collated by tracker primeinfobase.com for all the companies listed on the National Stock Exchange.
Their contribution accounts for more than the cumulative donation made by 247 other firms to the fund – 59.3% of total donation of Rs 4,910.5 crore, reports the newspaper. The top five donors are Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (Rs 370 crore), NTPC (Rs 330 crore), Power Grid Corporation of India (Rs 275 crore), Indian Oil Corporation (Rs 265 crore), and Power Finance Corporation (Rs 222.4 crore).
The report has identified 57 companies in which the government had a significant stake to make the calculations.
The PM-CARES has been in the thick of controversy since it was set up in March 2020, because of its avoidance of public scrutiny and receipt of funds from foreign entities, including Chinese companies. The fund is not controlled by the Government of India, according to a reported submission by the Union government to the Delhi high court in January 2023. This reiterated a position mentioned in a 2020 judgment by the Supreme Court, which noted that the trust does not receive any government money.
The PM CARES Fund collected Rs 3,076.6 crore in 2019-20, according to disclosures on its website, which rose to Rs 10,990.2 crore in 2020-21 and fell to Rs 9,131.9 crore in 2021-22. The bulk of the amount seems to have come from corporate India’s CSR budgets in its first year.
The PM CARES Fund spent only Rs 2,049 crore in the few days it was operational in 2019-20. This increased to Rs 3,976.2 crore in 2020-21 and Rs 3,716.3 crore in 2021-22.
As per the newspaper, scrutiny over CSR spending gains increased significance because of the new norms that were amended by the government in September 2022. These amended norms limit the amount of information that companies have to put out in their annual reports on CSR spends.
The status of PM CARES has been controversial for its nature and the lack of transparency around it. Earlier this year, in January, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) told the Delhi high court that the PM CARES Fund is not a “public authority” under Article 12 of the Constitution of India and so is not answerable to the public about its functioning under the Right to Information Act, 2005.