Topic: General Studies 2:
- Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
- Government policies and interventions for development in Health sectors
Abolotion of Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS)
Recently, Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) was suspended by the Central government for two years.
- All Opposition parties have criticised the Government’s move.
- However, the government has reasoned that these funds are needed to strengthen the government’s efforts in managing the challenges and adverse impact of COVID-19 in the country.
What is MPLADS?
- Under the scheme, each Member of Parliament may suggest works to the District Collector amounting ₹5 crores per year which can be taken up in his/her constituency.
However, the experts feel that the MPLADs scheme should be completely abolished due to following reasons:
Separation of powers
- The scheme gives an executive function to legislators.
- hardly any authorities in the district who have the courage to defy the wishes of an MP.
- According to Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)’s report, utilisation of funds is between 49 to 90% of the allotted amount.
- Though the scheme envisages that works under the scheme should be limited to asset creation, 78% of the works that were recommended were for improvement of existing assets.
- Lesser quantities of material were used than specified by contractors resulting in excess payments and sub-standard works.
- There was no accountability for the expenditure in terms of the quality and quantities executed.
- Delays in issuing work orders ranged from 5 to 387 days in 57% of the works. The work order must be issued within 45 days of the receipt of recommendation by the MP.
- Without following the correct procedure, extensions of time were granted to the contractors.
- Register of assets created were not maintained. Thus, location and existence of assets could not be verified.
Gaps in utilization
- There are wide variations in the utilisation of the MPLAD amount in various constituencies.
- According to a report published in IndiaSpend:
- 298 of 542 Lok Sabha members had not spent a rupee from the ₹5 crore that is set aside annually for them to develop their constituencies even after a year of their election.
- Though ₹1,757 crore had been released for MPLADs, only ₹281 crore had been utilised by all the 543 MPs till May 15, 2015.
- This means only 16% of the money had been spent in one year by all the MPs put together.
- Since the MPLADS began in 1993, ₹5,000 crore was lying unspent with various district authorities by May 15, 2015.
Funds being utilised for appeasement
- MPLADS funds are also used to appease opinion-makers and favourite contractors.
- Often, the contractor is a relative, close friend, or a confidant of the MP.
- Constitutional validity of MPLADS was challenged in the Supreme Court of India in 1999, followed by petitions in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005.
- The combined judgment for all these petitions was delivered in 2010 and the scheme was held constitutional.
- It is often pointed out that the judgement was pronounced without an assessment of the situation prevalent in the field.
- Audit reports wherein gross irregularities and infirmities in implementation have been pointed out were not considered as evidence .
- Reports of underutilisation and misutilisation of MPLADS funds continue to surface at regular intervals but no serious attempt has been made to do anything about it till now.
- It would be in public interest to convert the two-year suspension into the complete abolition of this scheme.
- The same fund could be utilised for health and education purposes and in generating employment.
Connecting the dots
- While taking over MPLADS funds to fight the virus, Centre must allocate judiciously.