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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a penchant for exploring new avenues for collecting money from public. The latest is the surreptitious creation, on March 28, of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ or ‘PM CARES Fund’. A Press Information Bureau (PIB) release said: ‘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.

Prime Minister’s latest venture invited instant criticism from different quarters. Noted historian Ram Chandra Guha tweeted: ‘Why a new fund when a Prime Minister’s Relief Fund exists? And why the self-aggrandizing name, PM CARES? Must a colossal national tragedy also be (mis)used to enhance the cult of personality?’ Guha also wanted to know when it was decided to form a Public Charitable Trust, what the compelling reasons to do so were, and what were the advantages of forming a new Public Charitable Trust as against the existing Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF). Guha wondered why ‘cronies like Akshay Canada Kumar, Vijay PayTM, Jay BCCI Shah etc are falling over each other to donate to this freshly baked Public Charitable Trust instead of the institutionalised PMNRF’.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechuri said ‘There is no clarity about the new fund (PM CARES Fund), which raises questions about this collection. We can”t forget that this govt brought opaque electoral bonds and collected thousands of crores anonymously’.

Congress, too, wondered what was the need to create a separate trust when Rs 3,800 crore was lying unused in PM National Relief Fund. Party leader Shashi Tharoor said in a tweet: ‘PM, you owe the country an explanation for this high unusual step’. Congress spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh said that when Rs 3,800 crore were remaining unused in the PM National Relief Fund, what was the need to have a separate trust in the name of PM CARES.

Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund was created in January 1948 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to help the people subjected to violence and displacement following the partition of India. The resources of the PMNRF are utilised primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc, and to the victims of the major accidents and riots. Assistance from PMNRF is also rendered to defray the expenses for treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment and acid attack, etc. The fund consists of only public contributions.

Modi had created another Fund only a few months after becoming Prime Minister in 2014. It was called Swachh Bharat Kosh (SBK) and consisted of contributions received from Corporate Sector, philanthropists and individuals. Its objective was to ‘clean’ India by 2019. Nothing has since been heard of this Kosh; how much money it received and how that was spent. Besides, almost all municipal corporations and municipal committees in the country collect from the residents cleanliness cess. Was there any mechanism developed to coordinate utilisation of the money collected by SBK and local bodies?

The Modi government had, in the meantime, mischievously introduced Electoral Bonds, apparently in flagrant violation of the Constitutional provisions. The Election Commission had expressed the apprehension in its communication to the government that the Electoral Bonds would lead to money laundering by setting up of shell companies for diverting funds for donating to political parties. Needless to say that Modi’s party has been the major beneficiary of the scheme. Constitutional validity of Electoral Bonds scheme was challenged in the Supreme Court. The matter got stuck there as then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi succumbed to sexual harassment blackmail and changed the goal of his life.

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There is no end to the tales of official bungling in the schemes prepared for providing assistance to the Bhopal gas affected people. After the disaster following the leak of MiC gas from Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide plant in December 1984, a “step-up scheme” was started to provide training-cum-employment to the surviving victims. Under the scheme the affected people were to be given training in various vocations. They were then to be provided financial assistance to start their own business (75 per cent bank loan and 25 per cent government grant). The total number of beneficiaries: 263. Under another scheme, 3600 persons were to be trained in 40 vocations every year from 1990-91 to 1998-99. Only 4800 persons were trained when the scheme was stopped.

Then another programme of imparting vocational training to the affected people was started in 1986. Only 8,000 persons were given the training. But that also…

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Lal Krishna Advani was the BJP’s declared prime ministerial candidate. Rahul Gandhi is being groomed by her mother Sonia Gandhi (who is The Congress) to become Prime Minister, though not immediately. Both Advani and Rahul Gandhi share at least one trait: both consider the people of this country as dolts and treat them as such.

When Rahul Gandhi said at Balaghat that not even five paise of the one rupee allocated by the Centre for the welfare of the poor reached the beneficiaries, he was only censuring the ten years of the Congress governments at the Centre — five years of P.V.Narasimha Rao and another five years of Manmohan Singh — as well as the ten years of the Digvijay Singh regime in Madhya Pradesh.

Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi had stated in the late eighties that when the Centre spent one rupee on the welfare of the poor, only 15 paise were reaching the beneficiaries and the rest was pocketed by the intermediaries. Forget the V.P.Singhs and the Devegowdas. What has the Congress governments, in power at the Centre for two full terms during this period, have done to arrest this nefarious trend?

It’s not that those who held the strings were not made aware of the plight of the poor. The Centrally-sponsored National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in Madhya Pradesh is in a mess. When it was started in Badwani district, those entitled and deserving were denied enrolment and the relatively well-off people recommended by influential leaders of both the BJP and the Congress were given the benefits. The NGO working among the poor in Badwani district approached the officials concerned and sent detailed memoranda listing the instances of the bungling to union minister of rural development Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, among others. The minister announced that he would order an inquiry. What happened to that? The Central ministers, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh included, have, instead, been issuing certificates of good implementation of the Central schemes to the State government.

Vicious circle

It is a vicious circle. The schemes are implemented through bureaucrats who are the real plunderers in all the welfare schemes. The bureaucrats have their own well-knit network, immune to the hue of the political party in power. The Central ministers form their opinion only on the reports of the bureaucrats. If Shivraj Singh Chauhan is citing the good performance certificates given by the Central ministers today, Digvijay Singh was also citing such certificates even though his government was as insensitive to the plight of the poor as Chauhan’s government is today.

If Rahul Gandhi is being callow, Advani is a consummate demagogue. When did he learn that the Indians are keeping lakhs of crores of rupees in foreign banks clandestinely? That the idea is noble does not mean that it should be practicable also. The foreign banks have their own laws and it will not be easy, even with the best of intentions, to force them to reveal the particulars of the deposits. Advani’s promise to start bringing back the money from foreign banks within 100 days of coming to power (if the BJP does come to power) is humbug. Had not he and the others in his party joined V.P.Singh’s chorus in 1989 to expose and punish the culprits of the Bofors pay-off within a month? The Bofors case was virtually brushed aside a decade later when Advani was the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Incidentally, it would be interesting to find out if Advani, as Home Minister of the country, had taken even a single initiative in the interest of the people and the country. He had completely forgotten his pet subjects like the electoral reforms and amendment of the Police Act, about which he had been talking ad nauseam while in the Opposition.
Advani is talking of the Indians’ money in the foreign banks which is not easy to get back. He is not talking of the lakhs of crores of rupees which the industrialists of the country have borrowed from the public sector banks and financial institutions and have refused to repay. That huge amount is now treated as the bad debt. Recovering that money, with the firm support of the government, is POSSIBLE. Maybe, Advani is deliberately avoiding this subject because he is himself a beneficiary of this loot. Advani has not so far made public the source of the Rs 250 crore he is reportedly spending on his personal publicity and the huge amounts his party is spending on chartered planes for him and other party leaders.

Now we take toilets in trains for granted. It was not always so. In the beginning of the last century, there were no toilets in the trains. When the train stopped at a station, the passengers would use the nearby fields to defecate.

A Bengali gentleman, it seems, once got into panic when he heard the guard’s whistle and had to rush without completing his business. He later poured out his agony in a letter to the authorities concerned. The letter is contained in Binoo K John’s excellent book titled ‘Entry From Backside Only:

Hazaar Fundas Of Indian-English’ which traces the evolution of Indian-English. Okhil Chandra Sen’s letter to the Sahibganj divisional railway office (written in 1909) is as follows:

I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with lotah in one hand and dhoti in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on platform.

This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise

I am making big report to the papers. It was said that Okhil Chandra Sen’s letter had prompted the railway authorities to introduce toilets in Indian trains.

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In my email I received a message through Facebook saying that Helen Arianti (from somewhere in England) wanted to be friends with me on Facebook. I checked her Facebook account and found that some of my friends and acquaintances were already on her Facebook friends list. I confirmed.
There was a ‘hello’ from her to which I also responded. Then I received the following message: ‘please contact me on my Email vina4vina@hotmail.com i have important matter to discuss with you’. I wrote using my email: ‘Waiting’.

After silence for some time, I received an email from Vina Robbins. As the message was sent using the same email id (vina4vina@hotmail.com), I knew it was from Helen Arianti. Her email reads (without any editing):

‘How are you today? I like to be open, i am a woman that have seen life, i have been in the social circle for many years, It…

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This is still a mystery who set Coach S-6 afire and who were the karsevaks promtly cremated.

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Three questions on burning of Coach S-6 of Sabarmati Express near Godhra station in the morning of February 27, 2002 are still awaiting answers. The train was supposed to carry Kar Sevaks from Ayodhya. According to a Railway Ministry statement, on that day a total of 59 passengers had made reservations, most of these were made from Lucknow and Kanpur. Three of them had cancelled their bookings. The Railway Ministry had ‘after comprehensive investigation’ found that out of the 56 persons who had their reservations in the Coach, four were killed, nine were injured and seven were still missing’. The Railway Ministry further said that its investigation found that ’32 of them were alive and safe’ and that the remaining passengers who had perished in the burning coach ‘appear to have boarded the Coach without reservation’.

Now the three questions:

  1. How did then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi promptly identify…

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