Speech made on September 19, 2020 during the consideration of the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020.
In the latest amendment to the Income Tax Act, 1961 under the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020, the Government has granted the PM-CARES fund a 100% deduction under Section 80G.
The relaxation under Section 80G is yet another benefit extended to a fund riddled with questions and silences. It succeeds a notification that allows donations to the fund to qualify as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013. It is also exempted under the FCRA, allowing it to receive foreign donations without regulation.
The primary question the Government has failed to answer is the need for a new fund. The objectives of PMNRF and PM-CARES are overlapping and there exists no special provision distinguishing the PM-CARES fund. In fact, the PMNRF has been used by Prime Minsters across various political parties including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee since its constitution. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has announced relief from the PMNRF on multiple occasions, including floods in Bihar, cyclone Okhi in 2017 and cyclone Fani in 2019 among many others.
PMNRF has always remained devoid of any political character- being used similarly by Prime Minsters across various political parties. It is unfortunate that a fund used by Prime Ministers of all political affiliations until date, has now acquired a political character, only to mask the irregularities of the new PM-CARES fund. While the Government repeatedly points out similarities in the two funds to deflect important questions, it then fails to address the need for a new fund.
It is pertinent for the Government to clarify the inflow and outflow of money in the PM-CARES fund. Especially, in light of numerous Chinese companies and Indian Companies funded majorly by China pledging donations to the fund. The Government cannot claim to be reducing bilateral relationships by banning Chinese apps and yet accepting magnanimous donations from Chinese giants. Where the inflow casts serious doubt on the integrity of the Government, there are equally alarming signs on the outflow. As also pointed out in the speech on September 19, 2020, the lack of any information with regard to the Daman ventilators bought from the PM-CARES fund, that caught fire burning people alive, in Rajkot adds to the opacity of an already controversial fund.
While the Government deflects important questions, it engages in whataboutery. While it alleges the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation despite its duly audited and filed reports, statutory and Income Tax Act returns, it maintains radio silence on the Vivekananda Foundation, India Foundation and Overseas friends of the BJP.