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The Indian government on Wednesday, April 1, decided to accept foreign contributions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's special fund - PM-CARES - set up to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The pandemic is unprecedented. When the Prime Minister spoke to heads of missions he asked them to make efforts so that contributions are made to the PM-CARES fund. A decision has been taken to accept donations from abroad," NDTV quoted sources.
The PM had announced the special fund last month in view of the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country.
"Keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected, a public charitable trust under the name of Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) has been set up. Prime Minister is the Chairman of this trust and its Members include Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister," a statement from PM's office had then said.
The sources said that the PM CARES Fund was set up amid several spontaneous requests from both India and abroad to make donations to support the government's efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
"Contributions to the trust can be made by individuals and organisations, both in India and abroad," sources said.
However, while several media organisations reported that the move to accept foreign donations is a shift in the government's policy, government sources later clarified.
"PM CARES fund will simply accept donations and contributions from individuals and organizations who are based in foreign countries. This is consistent with India's policy with respect to Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) which has also received foreign contributions as a public trust since 2011," The Times Of India quoted a government source.
After the 2004 tsunami, the then PM Manmohan Singh had rejected bilateral assistance, thereby bringing about a change in India's disaster aid policy. Since then, India has not accepted aid from abroad.
During 2013 Uttarakhand floods, India had rejected Russia's assistance. Similarly, in August 2018, India did not accept donations from the UAE and Qatar to help flood-hit Kerala.
In case of the Kerala floods, the official spokesperson had then said, "In line with the existing policy, the Government is committed to meeting the requirements for for relief and rehabilitation through domestic efforts. Contributions to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund and the Chief Minister's Relief Fund from NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations would be welcome."
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