By Aditya Kalra and Alexandra Ulmer
NEW DELHI / MUMBAI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticized for setting up a new coronavirus relief fund when around $ 500 million was not spent in an older fund, even though top companies and celebrities spent millions of US dollars – Accept dollars in new donations.
Modi launched the PM CARES fund to help those affected by the coronavirus, which infected over 5,000 people in India and killed 149 people.
The fund is expected to help millions of day laborers, many of whom have been destroyed by a nationwide ban that has ordered modes to contain the epidemic.
However, the main opposition party of Congress said the new fund was not transparent enough and asked why it was created and why it could not be merged with the older fund, the Prime Minister’s National Aid Fund, established in 1948, a balance of 38 billion Rupees ($ 498.6 million).
Modi’s office did not respond to requests for comments.
Some aid groups also fear that the new, high-profile fund could divert resources from the humanitarian efforts at the grassroots level.
“Why did they have to set up the PM CARES fund? Social considerations may be a priority for commercial buildings, but sometimes it becomes a race to be in good books,” said Namita Gopal, a Mumbai-based consultant who focuses on corporate social Responsibility (CSR) specializes).
“All companies use their CSR funds in this way, raising concerns that other nonprofits may not receive funds in the coming year.”
India requires large companies to spend at least 2% of the average net profit on CSR activities annually for the past three years.
Bollywood actors, cricketers and prominent business people are committed to supporting Modi’s fund.
Less than two weeks after the launch, private companies have pledged at least $ 295 million. This emerges from a Reuters list of the announced contributions and details of the lobby group FICCI.
Modi said the fund would benefit the “poorest of the poor” and strengthen disaster management.
On Tuesday, ruling party’s IT chief Amit Malviya defended the fund and said on Twitter that it was “far more appropriate and transparent” than the older aid fund.
He didn’t go into more detail.
“ABOVE AND ABOVE”
The new fund, which was announced at the end of March, is managed by Modi. The board members include the defense, finance and home affairs ministers. Businesses and individuals can contribute, and the government has funded small donations.
The Department of Corporate Affairs sent a letter entitled “AN APPEAL” to top companies on March 30 stating that donations were counted under CSR commitments.
Companies that had already met their commitments were encouraged to go “beyond” and use donations to the new fund to offset future CSR commitments. Reuters received a copy of the letter.
Modi celebrated on Twitter when donations were received from companies like the oil-to-telecommunications conglomerate Reliance Industries, supported by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.
Meanwhile, some state-owned oil companies have been ordered by the government to contribute, an industry source said, adding that donations and the crisis in the oil market could contribute to cutbacks in investment plans.
“There is generally increasing frustration with how much money goes to the government,” the source grumbled.
MAKE A DONATION?
In the top public hospital in New Delhi, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), according to Dr. Srinivas Rajkumar, the general, redirected a pledged donation of approximately $ 66,000 from a state-owned health-defending defense company to PM CARES, secretary of the Resident Doctors’ Association there.
Rajkumar informed Reuters that a representative of the defense company, Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), had told him that the funds “would no longer be part of CSR donations … because the Department of Defense has all outstanding CSR funds and one – day salary be donated directly to PM CARES “.
BDL did not respond to requests for comments.
A defense ministry spokesman, Bharat Bhushan Babu, told Reuters that BDL had never committed to donating to AIIMS and the BDL board had decided to donate to PM CARES itself.
The medical association has also protested a hospital plan to withdraw a daily salary from staff to donate to PM CARES. The club says contributions should be voluntary and it was more important to buy health equipment.
AIIMS rejected the doctors’ complaint in a letter on Tuesday, saying that anyone who did not want to contribute to the “noble cause” of the fund should officially deregister.
($ 1 = 76,2200 Indian Rupees)
(Additional reporting by Aftab Ahmed and Nidhi Verma in New Delhi; Sudarshan Varadhan in Chennai.)