Courtesy : Sonu Sood Instagram
While the pandemic continues to be a reality right now, one can never forget about the story of actor Sonu Sood. The man proved to be a true humanitarian and a hero to many having helped millions in one way or another during these tested times. Hence, it came across as quite a shock when it was reported that his house was raided by income tax officials last week.
There were allegations levelled against the actor regarding the usage of funds collected under his foundation. And now, in an at-length interview with ETimes, Sood opened up on questions regarding the accusations, and says that he continues to be determined to achieve his goals.
First he said, "We have presented every single document, in fact, more documents than they wanted. I don’t have an inch of land in Jaipur or Lucknow as alleged and we have already provided the documents for that. As far as the violation of the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) norms go, any company or a foundation that’s listed for more than three years is eligible for an FCRA registration to receive funds. My foundation is not registered, so I can’t receive these funds.
The funds are still lying with the crowdfunding platform. I was just a voice for that platform to raise funds. All the help goes directly from the crowdfunding platform to the hospital (where a needy patient is being treated) or the medical colleges for education. Saying that I violated FCRA norms is wrong because the money didn’t come to India or to my foundation. There is not even one dollar, one cent or a penny that has reflected in my account. Every single person that we treated medically, we have given all the documents related to it, like the details of the patient, hospital, doctor, even their PAN numbers and phone numbers have been provided to the officials. We have every single thing on record, like details about whom we helped and how we helped. We have presented all the documents to the honourable department."
As one would remember, there was a point that out of the apparent Rs 18.94 cr of donations he collected through the Sonu Sood Foundation, only a small percentage (Rs 1.9 crore) was put to use. About that, he said, "Any foundation that receives funds has a time limit of one year to use the funds. If the funds don’t get utilised, you can extend it to another year. These are the rules. I listed this foundation only a few months ago, close to the second wave of COVID. Otherwise, during the first wave, when I started helping the migrants, I had people stepping forward who offered to book buses for the migrants. We weren’t collecting money then. I started collecting funds (for my foundation) only in the last four-five months. As per rules, I have over seven months more to use these funds. I am not going to waste people’s hard-earned money, and my hard-earned money. I am saying the latter because 25 per cent, to at times 100 per cent of the remuneration I have charged for brand endorsements directly went to my foundation. I did endorsements free of cost if the brands donated money. So, the funds in the foundation are also my personal funds, which I donated. I have had little kids breaking their piggy banks to offer `600 or `800, a blind woman donating her five months’ pension... and this amount is not less than crores of rupees for me. When the officials were going through the emails we received, there were 53,000 unread emails and around 8,000 unread messages on my WhatsApp chats. These were people trying to reach out to us for help. I have to make sure that every single penny we have gets utilised in the right way. And that is exactly why the funds are not fully used. We don’t want to waste money and break the trust of people.
I am planning to open a hospital in Hyderabad. A large number of patients that came to us, were treated at hospitals there. The medical infrastructure at some hospitals in Hyderabad is on a different level. The idea is that in the next 50 years, whether Sonu Sood remains or not, the free treatment of patients should continue with this charitable hospital. My dreams are big and I am on a mission. In the last couple of days, I have already spent Rs 2 crores on the hospital project. It will be a state-of-the-art, free of cost, medical facility of the best of quality for the needy. We are already working on an orphanage and school, too. Every project is in place."
When asked as to what does he think led to this raid, he said, "They will be the right people to answer this question. I was doing my job before and will continue to do so after they have left. There have been almost 12 surgeries that we have helped get done in the last few days after they left. At my end, nothing will stop me."
Concluding on the note that what happens next, he said, "It is a process, it takes time. They keep asking for papers and documentation. We keep providing them with those and make sure that everything they ask for is provided to them as soon as possible."
Keep reading this space for further updates.