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Mamata Banerjee looks to unite opposition on donation to CM relief fund

The CSR Act of 2013 currently says only contributions to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund are eligible. While the possibilities of the passage of a private member’s bill is dim – the opposition just doesn’t have the numbers in the lower house of Parliament – the political aim behind pushing such a legislation is to bring chief ministers from various parties on the same page on yet another issue.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2018 23:59 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times
Mamata banerjee,CM relief find,west bengal CM relief fund
Mamata Banerjee mentioned in her letter that “chief minister’s relief fund is always under financial stress as not much contribution is made by the corporations”.(PTI file photo)

Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress is in talks with other opposition parties to muster support for a private member’s bill that makes contributions to Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Funds from a company a so-called eligible activity under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Act, a senior leader of the TMC said on condition of anonymity. This has been a long-standing demand of the state’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The CSR Act of 2013 currently says only contributions to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund are eligible.

While the possibilities of the passage of a private member’s bill is dim – the opposition just doesn’t have the numbers in the lower house of Parliament – the political aim behind pushing such a legislation is to bring chief ministers from various parties on the same page on yet another issue.

Apart from Banerjee, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has also, in the past, appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow donations to the chief minister’s disaster relief fund an activity eligible for the mandatory CSR.

Donations to the relief funds (both CM’s and PM’s ) are exempt from tax. Allowing CSR funds to be deployed in CM’s relief funds would enable states to attract large contributions from local companies based in their jurisdiction for spending on social welfare schemes and to finance relief efforts at times of natural calamities.

“The inclusion of contributions made to the CM’s Relief Fund as one of the eligible activities under CSR will not only bring parity with the existing provision allowing CSR for PM’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) but also go a long way in helping the poor and needy in the state to get support,” Banerjee wrote in a letter to Modi in May this year.

A copy of the letter has been seen by HT.

A month later, Patnaik echoed the same demand to Modi. He wrote that that there is a “dire need to include contribution to state CMRFs as an eligible activity under CSR”.

CSR rules were rolled out on April 1, 2014. They make it compulsory for companies with a net worth of ₹500 crore or revenue of ₹1,000 crore or net profit of ₹5 crore to spend 2% of their average profit in the previous three years on social development-related activities such as sanitation, education, healthcare and poverty alleviation.

The PMNRF was formed in 1948, when India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, set up the fund with public contributions to assist people displaced from Pakistan after Partition.

The private member’s bill is likely to be pushed by a senior Trinamool MP in Rajya Sabha, the TMC leader added.

Even as many public sector or private companies like to directly take up projects to spend their CSR money, many others want to deposit the money in the PMNRF or Swachh Bharat Kosh and get 100% tax relief on the donated amount and leave it to the PM and the union government to decide where and when to spend it.

Banerjee mentioned in her letter that “chief minister’s relief fund is always under financial stress as not much contribution is made by the corporations”.

“Due to paucity of funds, we are not being able to fulfil all the requests made for support,” she wrote.

First Published: Nov 27, 2018 23:29 IST