By Pervez Bari
Urging people to contribute in the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set up a Prime Minister Citizen Assurance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES Fund). The Prime Minister is the Chairman of this trust and its members include Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.
The BJP government at the Centre is fond of acronyms staring with PM. PMJDY, PMKISAN.....and the list goes on. They use every situation to gain political advantage. There is no shortage of funds. The government has increased excise duty on petroleum products when international prices came down, and after the change of guard the RBI handed out huge sum. Where all these funds are being utilised? Also the disbursement of MNREGA arrears is treated as relief measure.
The name of this fund has been so articulately designed to mean that PM is personally caring (PM CARES). The words are tactically chosen to suit the title. It is a cheap politics during a great calamity . When there already exists one fund -- Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) -- with “pucca” accounting and auditing, what is the need for a separate fund with only BJP ministers as its members. This will lead to rampant corruption. It certainly appears that Modi's creation of the new funding apparatus - with the unsurprising appellation, PM CARES - is also meant to serve promotion of his own image. But then again, with Narendra Modi, such should be expected.
I back Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor’s tweet. With this new initiative what is called PM CARES is just a marketing programme for our Prime Minister. That he is caring us is a poor piece of idea in the time of uncertainty.
Meanwhile, the publicity stunt involved about creating the fund cannot be overlooked. When people live in fear for their survival, nobody will be ready to raise the relevant questions. The name of the fund should have been CITIZENS-CARES or INDIA-CARES if PM really cares for his citizens. With no Opposition party or civil society members being included into the group raises the degree of doubt how the funds will be used, whether it will be fairly distributed to all the states. Will the contributors be deemed 'quid pro quo donors'? Or the Funds received will be apportioned for schemes with known 'offset partners' at the helm?
The rules framed for this new Fund & existing PM Relief Fund makes interesting reading and indicates how substantial diversionary adjustments can be done. It's wrong because it doesn't have transparency set of rules, no opposition leader or civil society members (just PM and his three ministers). Yes, it will be good if PMO can explain the logic behind the new fund name. Narcissism and fraud lie at the heart of this fund. Opaque like everything this government does. Most relief funds do not get used for relief as planned but gets diverted. Politicians know the reasons for such smart moves.
This fund should have been earmarked only for individuals to ensure national participation towards an impending crisis. The moment corporate houses step in, it acquires a different prism and keeps the ordinary citizens out of it, as it becomes insignificant before the huge amounts and deters people. If the purpose of this fund is to rally all the countrymen to unite, the purpose is to an extent is defeated. Sycophancy is inbuilt in any power structure and those at the helm of affairs, not only should resist it but consciously keep it out of public consciousness. Agreed, we are not living in Mahatma’s time, but yet if we swear by his ideals, should subscribe to, at least on paper.
Meanwhile, this is just another means to create a slush fund to feed the lust for money of the BJP outfit. This step this government has unlawfully invented after its most disgusting law on Electoral Bonds is the biggest act of fiscal corruption after the Rafale deal. Crores have already been siphoned into this one satanic slush fund from corporate beggars who are just diverting loan amounts collected from banks (peoples' money) and most of it has already been declared as NPA that totals a whopping 4.9 lakh crore booty of corruption. What has the government done with PM’s Disaster Relief money for this very man-made humanitarian crisis of wisdom-less mass displacement of migrant workers! It is high time that people stop donating money since history is witness to the fact that public money has always flown into the pockets of the government in power. The only way to help people in this government-created disaster of displacement is to offer food, shelter and love which the government cannot.
Whatever happens, BJP turns it to its advantage! As long as innocent people, who blindly believe certain leadership, are there, this trend of misusing their goodwill never stops. In the country, now there is literally no serious opposition to the ruling party. In such absence, the dominant party takes advantage in each and everything and in addition, they also get sympathy from people. To end monopoly of a single party, the Opposition parties have to provide honest alternative by introspecting and omitting nepotism, favouritism, influence, money as alternative to merit etc. When can we expect all these changes from Opposition parties?
Kudos to Ramchandra Guha
Kudos to Ramchandra Guha, who is an Indian historian and economist, for objecting to forming of an ill-intended fund in the name of the PM at this moment of crisis that would create a feeling of indebtedness to the PM in the citizens as a person rather than receiving relief as a matter of right from the state with no riders attached.
One wonders, is Coronavirus or our political system which is more dangerous to our country, people and democracy. Politics over people's miseries is the brand of current dispensation. Subverting a calamity of this magnitude to personal publicity shows the moral bankruptcy of a Prime Minister with an abysmally negative EQ. Guha is right to suggest that this is basically encouraging sycophancy, chamchagiri and loyalty to the Prime Minister'. Looks brand promotion over the frail bodies of infected & the migrants. It is a crude form of vote-bank politics.
Whatever the situation, it is exploited for enhancing personality cult by the current regime. The criticism by Guha is very correct and timely, but who would listen to sane voices when everyone is busy in exploiting tragic situation of migrant workers - look at Maharashtra BJP - with its flags on, it is distributing food to migrants at some places.
Meanwhile, those who are donating in PM CARES Fund are not donations. They are fooling the nation. They are giving CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) money into this which anyhow they have to give. Instead of donating in PM National Relief Fund they created new platform PM CARES Fund so that they can fool the entire country.
BJP/RSS claims loyal Nationalist and others are corrupt and all this happened because of Congress mistakes. In 60 years Congress man has not earned that much money which in 6 years BJP/RSS people have earned and enjoying by creating chaos and communal violence in the country for that some paid media supporting to that crimes. Simple, now everyone would start to do the same crime of RSS while chanting “Bolo Bharat Mata ki Jai”.
Dr Harsh Vardhan’s inability to take pro-active steps being Union Health Minister and a qualified Medical Doctor is baffling. More so is Amit Shah supposedly a great organizer’s demonetization style poorly planned curfew instead of “stay-where-you-are” clearly indicates the limitations of centralized power exposes follow-my-way in the name of nationalism - should I say fake-nationalism of this government and its think tank? They have this one chance to redeem all the misguided policies. Hope PM and this government will do what they are ought to do and not worry about image building.
(The writer is a senior freelance journalist and the views expressed in this article are his own. Inquest.org.in is not liable for any legal implication in it.)
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