The Finance Ministry has cleared the way for individual and institutional contributions to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), nearly 15 years after it was set up, a letter shared by the ministry with an RTI activist said.
The letter from the Department of Expenditure, Finance Ministry addressed to Home Secretary, Ajay Bhalla, on the issue of contributions or grants by individuals and institutions under Section 4(1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act, said it has no objection to the proposal.
“The matter has been consulted with the Budget Division of the Department of Economic Affairs and the department has no objection to the proposal of contributions/grants from individuals/institutions towards the NDRF as per Section 46(1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005,” the letter dated June 19 said.
A copy of the letter was sent to activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd) who has raised the issue that even after setting up the Disaster Relief Fund 15 years ago it is not clear how such contributions can be made.
The letter said the receipts in the form of grants or donations made by any person for the purpose of disaster management may be taken as receipts of the government of India under a new minor head (in accounting parlance) opened in consultation with the Controller General of Accounts (CGA).
“Cheques may be drawn by the donors in the name of PAO (Secretariat) MHA who can deposit the cheque in the nominated PSB of MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) with the above classification for being credited in government account,” it said.
The letter further said during the wait period of getting the new minor head in place and made operational, the amount may be deposited in an interim head called receipts awaiting transfers for eventual classification in the final head of account.
Similar procedures may be followed for contributions or grants to the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF), it said.
“The National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), constituted under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, supplements SDRF of a state, incase of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in SDRF,” National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) website says.
According to Section 46 (1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 the central government may, by notification in the official gazette, constitute a fund to be called the NDRF for meeting any threatening disaster situation or disaster in which any grants made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management may be credited.
Batra had been writing to the central government for last three months through a number of representations to Union Home Ministry, Finance Ministry, and the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) to allow individual contributions to the fund.
A PIL has also been filed in the Supreme Court by the Centre for Public Interest Litigations to transfer funds collected in the PM-CARES for COVID-19 management to the NDRF.