RTI | PMO refuses to make public advertising costs incurred on PM CARES

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has refused to part with information on the advertising costs incurred on the promotion of the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation Fund (PM CARES) on digital and traditional media, after a New Delhi-based activist sought details on the matter through Right to Information (RTI).

In an RTI application filed with the PMO on April 13, Navneet Chaturvedi had asked about the details of the advertising costs in promoting PM CARES on digital media, TV channels, email marketing and print advertisements. In the same application, Chaturvedi had also sought a copy of the communication between the PMO and banks/other collection avenues, showing authorisation by the government to collect funds from the donors.

In a reply to Chaturvedi’s RTI application dated June 5, the PMO refused to divulge the said information and disposed it off. “There is so much publicity around the PM CARES. We have been noticing these ads on different digital platforms, print and electronic media urging people to donate towards the PM CARES. It is only in public interest that the government should reveal how much it is spending in promoting PM CARES,” said Chaturvedi, explaining why he is seeking the information.

When pointed out that the PMO had stated that the trust is not covered under the RTI Act, in response to queries by other activists earlier, Chaturvedi quipped that his RTI plea was on a “different aspect” altogether.

Chaturvedi has now filed an appeal as he further intensifies his effort to seek answers to his queries. Set up as a Public Charitable Trust to solicit tax-free donations from the public to help government’s efforts fight the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the new fund.

According to PM CARES website, the fund has so far received Rs 3,100 crore in donations since it was registered on March 27 this year. Giving a break-up of the expenditure, the website says that Rs 2,000 crore has been spent on procuring 50,000 ‘Made in India’ ventilators, while Rs 1,000 crore of the total amount has been disbursed to states and UTs for ‘care of migrant labourers’.

The PM CARES website says that the remaining Rs 100 crore is being spent on the vaccine development programme. The website doesn’t detail the costs incurred on advertising and marketing, the subject of Chaturvedi’s RTI plea.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has reportedly sought the government’s response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that seeks to transfer the donations received in PM CARES to the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF).

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