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“If corruption is a disease, transparency is an essential part of the treatment.” - Kofi Annan

Funnily enough, this quote stands true for the Republic of India even today, about 8 years after Mr. Kofi Annan had quoted this, in the hope that all the governments of the nations would be kind enough to let their people know where their taxes were going.

The PM CARES trust, which stands for Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, was set up back in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic initially started spreading on a large-scale. It was a national fund ‘dedicated’ to helping the citizens in trying times and to help them with ‘any kind of emergency or national distress situation.’ Time and time again, it was lauded for being a ‘transparent’ institution headed by our own Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi.

However, not once have the citizens been made aware of where their money is actually being diverted to. And hence an RTI report was filed a few weeks ago by RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired), which inquired about the number of number of requests and appeals received and eliminated by the PM’s office every month since April. It further implored about the details of the PM CARES fund itself and the National Relief Cares Fund as well.

The GOI did reply to this and answered everything but the details about the PM CARES fund and the NRC Fund. The former Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, even went on to say that this was an ‘utter misuse’ of the RTI act and the person should be penalised under the law for this.

The PM’s office, in turn issued a statements saying that revealing any of this information would ‘disproportionately divert the resources.’ Please note that this happened even after a Kerala High Court verdict and many other such orders of the CIC (Central Information Commission) that the thesis provided by the PMO can be used only in circumstances when they’re asked to change the format of the information given, and not denying it completely.

The current Chief Information Commissioner from the PMO stated, “The information sought by you is not maintained in this office in compiled form. Its collection and compilation would disproportionately divert the resources of this office from the efficient discharge of its normal functions, thereby attracting the provisions under Section 7(9) of the Act.”

It doesn’t take an expert to figure out that something’s definitely being covered up, no matter how small or how big. What’s even more disturbing is the hypocrisy in the entirety of the PM CARES fund - Earlier in May, the PMO had stated that the PM CARES Fund was not a “public authority” under the RTI Act. Now, under the RTI Act, a public authority is any organisation as such which has been established under or by the Constitution, by any other law made and passed by the parliament or by an order issued by the government. It also covers organisations financed primarily by the government and NGO’s.

This was taken into consideration, and then last month, the Centre had reported to the Supreme Court and had stated that the PM CARES Fund was a ‘public charitable trust’ to which anyone can contribute. If there’s one thing that’s clear out of all this, it’s the fact that most of the government officials seem to be as clueless as we are.

Reporter: Kruthika Senthil Kumar

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