Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi
Photo: PTI

On Tuesday, as India continued its battle against the novel coronavirus, Indian Nation Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wrote to the Prime Minister urging the Centre to "transfer all money under PM-CARES fund to the Prime Ministers National Relief Fund".

For the uninitiated, the PM-CARES fund is a recent creation that is to be utilised for fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic and any similar issues that might arise in the future. In recent days, ordinary citizens and celebrities alike have come forward to donate to the fund.

The PMNRF has a similar role, but has so traditionally been used to combat crises such as floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters, explosions, fire-related accidents, bus or rail accidents and so on.

Interestingly, there is a strange connection between the Congress chief and the PMNRF.

The Committee for the PM Relief Fund has the President of the Congress as a member.

Set up in 1948 following an appeal by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the fund was established with public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan.

According to the Fund's website, PMNRF was not constituted by the Parliament. "The fund is recognized as a Trust under the Income Tax Act and the same is managed by Prime Minister or multiple delegates for national causes," the website adds.

The appeal by Prime Minister Nehru dated January 24, 1948 is available on the Fund's website and mentions that he felt "it would be desirable to have a central relief fund which can be used for any type of emergency relief of distress but which must now be especially used for the relief and rehabilitation of refugees from Pakistan who have come to India".

Announcing that he was starting the Fund, Nehru had said that to begin with the Fund would be managed by a committee consisting of:

The Prime Minister

The President of the Indian National Congress

The Deputy Prime Minister

The Finance Minister

A representative of the Tata Trustees

A representative of Industry and Commerce to be chosen by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI)

This committee, he had written, may be added to.

In India, as per data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the number of cases crossed 4,400 on Tuesday. 114 people have so far died. Globally, the Johns Hopkins University puts the total number of cases recorded at more than 1,350,800 as of Tuesday afternoon.

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