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The PM Cares Fund was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mobilises resources to fight the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: PTI)
The PM Cares Fund was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mobilises resources to fight the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: PTI)

BJP-Cong next battle: PAC may take up scrutiny of PM CARES Fund

  • The PM CARES Fund, set up on 28 March, defines itself as a public charitable trust with the key objective of dealing with any kind of emergency situation like the covid-19 pandemic

NEW DELHI: In what could lead to another political slugfest between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) may take up scrutiny of the PM CARES Fund.

The PAC, chaired by Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, will meet on Friday to discuss and consider selection of subjects for examination during 2020-21, according to information available on the Lok Sabha website. Opposition parties including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena and the Left have been vocal about making details of the Fund public.

"The PAC is one of the oldest parliamentary committee if not the oldest and as per the norm it is headed by a senior leader of opposition to maintain impartiality. But we suspect that there is going to be an attempt by the Congress to use PAC for political gains and settle scores. This is not the first time when Congress along with other opposition parties would try to do it," said a person aware of the developments.

The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, or the PM CARES Fund, set up on 28 March, defines itself as a public charitable trust with the key objective of "dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation" like the covid-19 pandemic.

The Opposition, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, has accused the union government of not being transparent about the Fund. The Centre, on the other hand, has said it has allocated money from the Fund for ventilators, relief measures for migrants and vaccine development, among others.

Opposition leaders from the committee said all matters pertaining to revenue and expenditure of the union government will be taken up for discussion but added that funding issues related to covid-19 will be a key focus.

"There will be more clarity closer to the meeting on what are the exact subjects which are selected for scrutiny. But naturally issues related to covid-19 will be a top priority because entire nation’s focus on that. PM CARES Fund is being raised by all opposition parties and it could be taken up in the committee meeting as well," a senior opposition member from the committee said requesting anonymity.

Senior leaders of the National Democratic Alliance have said that Congress leaders had tried to corner the union government by hoping to invite home secretary Ajay Bhalla to parliamentary committee to question him on the Fund.

"Parliamentary committees are non-partisan but chief of PAC is a senior Congress leader. We will have to see how many people actually take part in the meeting of the committee on 10 July. Most members are not in Delhi so if they are not able to reach then there cannot be any meeting," said another person.

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