Recently, the government has decided to suspend the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years and will spend these funds in order to strengthen the government’s efforts in managing the challenges and adverse impact of COVID-19 in the country.
- On December 23, 1993, the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao, announced the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) in Parliament.
- Initially, the MPLADS was under the control of Ministry of Rural Development. However, in October 1994, the scheme was transferred to Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
- Following the path of MPLADS, the Delhi government framed MLALADS in 1994-95 with an allocated fund of Rs. 1 crore for an MLA every year and the amount was increased to Rs. 1.40 crore and then to Rs. 2 crore in 2001. Later on, many State governments implemented the MLALADS in their States on similar lines.
Features of MPLADS
- It is an ongoing Central Sector Scheme which was launched in 1993-94 which enables the Members of Parliament to recommend works for creation of durable community assets based on locally felt needs.
- The purpose of the scheme was to enable MPs to create durable assets based on local requirements of their respective constituencies.
- The present limit for each MP is ₹5 crore per year and the un-utilized funds can be carried over to the next year.
- MPs are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15 per cent of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by Scheduled Tribes population.
- Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their Constituenciesand Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within theState of Election (with select exceptions). Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
Importance of MPLADS
- The guidelines lay down a number of development works, including construction of railway halt stations, providing financial assistance to recognised educational bodies, cooperative societies, bar associations, installing CCTV cameras, and rainwater harvesting systems.
- The MPLADS funds can be merged with other schemes such as MGNREGA and Khelo India Schemes.
- It fulfills the legitimate desire of the aspiration for better quality public goods and an enhanced standard of living.
- There is a complete breakdown of how the money is going to be utilized ismentioned under the Right to Information (RTI).
Concerns associated with MPLADS
- There is an argument that MPs only recommend the projects, but the final choice and implementation of the projects rests with the district authorities.
- There is lack of courage among the district authorities in order to provide resistance to the wish of an MP.
- The observation made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India is that only 49% to 90% of the booked amount is utilized by the district authorities.
- Though the scheme envisages that works under the scheme should be limited to asset creation, 549 of the 707 works test-checked (78%) of the works recommended were for improvement of existing assets.
- There were wide variations in quantities executed against the quantities specified in the BOQ (Bills of Quantity) in 137 of the 707 works test-checked.
- There is no accountability for the expenditure in terms of the quality and quantities executed against specifications.
- The register of assets created is required under the scheme but lack of maintenance of such register leads to non-verification of location and existence of such assets.
- There are only 35 MPs of the Lok Sabha who have utilized the entire amount of MPLADS during 2014 to 2018.
- The Supreme Court have placed an unquestioned trust in the efficacy of the scheme of implementation of MPLADS drawn up by the government without an assessment of the situation prevalent in the field, evidence of which is available in audit reports wherein gross irregularities and infirmities in implementation have been pointed out.
Why MPLADS must go?
- The scheme violates one of the cardinal principles which though not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, actually permeate the entire Constitution that is the separation of powers.
- The implementation of the scheme has always been under the question mark because sometimes the expenditure incurred by the executing agencies being less than amount booked.
- Out of 542 members of the 16th Lok Sabha, 298 members have not spent a rupee from the ₹5 crore that is set aside annually for them to develop their constituencies.
- The amount under MPLADS is mostly used to please the opinion makers, opinion influencers and favourite contractors.
- The legality and constitutionality of the MPLADS has always been questioned.
- There have been various reports of under-utilization and mis-utilization of MPLADS funds which continue to surface at regular intervals but there have been no serious attempt to do anything about it till now.
- It would be helpful and a historic step to convert the two-year suspension of MPLADS into the complete abolition of the undesirable and unconstitutional scheme.
- The government can also continue this scheme but instead of including the MPs, the amount should be transferred directly to district authorities and proper audit of expenditure should be conducted.
- MPLADS is a very nimble and effective scalpel of targeted micro-level intervention. Instead of complete abolition, there is a requirement of cooperative federalism.
Source: The Hindu