It is time to revive MPLADS

GS 2Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

Source The Hindustan Times dated 29/05/2021

https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/it-is-time-to-revive-mplads-it-will-help-citizens-101622297618501.html

Context

In April 2020, the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) funds were suspended for two years.
Recently, Bahujan Samaj Party leader and Member of Parliament from Amroha, UP, Kunwar Danish Ali has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately restore the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) so that lawmakers can utilise it to provide immediate medical relief to people in their respective constituencies amid the second wave of Covid-19.

What is MPLADS?
  • The Members of Parliament and Local Area Development (MPLAD)Scheme was launched on 23rd December 1993, to provide a mechanism for the Members of Parliament to recommend works of developmental nature for creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities, including community infrastructure, based on locally felt needs.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development initially administered the scheme. Since October 1994 it has been transferred to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.(non-lapsable)
  • 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 S.T. population.

Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their Constituencies and Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State of Election (with select exceptions). Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.

How does MPLADS work?

MPs  do not receive any money under these schemes. The government transfers it directly to the respective local authorities. The legislators can only recommend works in their constituencies based on a set of guidelines.

Priority Projects:
  • The projects include assets building such as drinking water facilities, primary education, public health sanitation and roads.
  • Since June 2016, the MPLAD funds can also be used for implementation of the schemes such as Swachh Bharat AbhiyanAccessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), conservation of water through rain water harvesting and Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana, etc.
  • Recommendations for non-durable assets can be made only under limited circumstances. For example, last month, the government allowed use of MPLAD funds for the purchase of personal protection equipment, coronavirus testing kits etc.
What is MLALAD?
  • It is States’ version of MPLADS.
  • The guidelines for use of MLALAD funds differ across states.
    • For example, Delhi MLAs can recommend the operation of fogging machines (to contain dengue mosquitoes), installation of CCTV cameras etc.
  • After the legislators give the list of developmental works, they are executed by the district authorities as per the governments financial, technical and administrative rules.
Why was MPLADS susupended?

Contribution to pandemic response-Suspension of the MPLAD Scheme made Rs 7,800 crore approximately, available to the government.

Why should MPLADS be restored?
  • Until 2017, nearly 19 lakh projects worth Rs 45,000 crore had been sanctioned under the MPLAD Scheme. 
  • Third-party evaluators appointed by the government reported that the creation of good quality assets had a “positive impact on the local economy, social fabric and feasible environment”.
  • 82% of the projects have been in rural areas and the remaining in urban/semi-urban areas.
  • Cumulative achievements(till 2017)
    • The percentage of utilization over of funds is 92.78 % as on    31.03.2017
    • The percentage of cumulative works completed over cumulative works sanctioned is 89.31 %.
MPLADS in disaster management
  • Chennai floods(2015)– Rs. 3956.64 lakh was contributed.
  • Uttarakhand flash floods/landslides and cloudburst(2013)- Members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha consented to contribute MPLADS funds to the tune of Rs. 2424.10 lakh and Rs. 3464.07 lakh, respectively
  • Rehabilitation works in flash flood and landslide affected areas of Jammu & Kashmir-30 MPs from Lok Sabha and 30 MPs from Rajya Sabha consented to contribute Rs. 654.00 lakh, and Rs.1335.50 lakh, respectively from their MPLADS funds.
Issues with MPLADS
  • Constitutionality?
    • It co-opts legislators into executive functioning(conflict with the doctrine of separation of powers)
    • The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2000) and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission(Ethics in Governance), (2007), recommended discontinuation of the scheme.
    • But a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court,in 2010, ruled that there was no violation of the concept of separation of powers because the role of an MP in this case is recommendatory and the actual work is carried out by the Panchayats and Municipalities which belong to the executive organ.
  • Under-utilization of the MPLAD funds in various constituencies.
    • According to some reports, 93.55% of MPs could not utilize their entire MPLADS fund from May 4, 2014, till December 10, 2018, in 4 years and 7 months. 
  • Some shortcomings identified by the CAG include
    • Selection of works prohibited by the scheme guidelines.

Consider these findings from a report by ADR from Gujarat

  • Utilization of funds between 49 to 90% of the booked amount.
  • The scheme envisages that works should be limited to asset creation, but 78% of test-checked works recommended were for improvement of existing assets.
  •  Over 98% of the works created had no record of handing over to the user agency.
Way forward
  • The CAG came up with a set of recommendations that would ensure that the MPLADS would fulfill its intended objective. 
  • A robust and regular internal audit system should be immediately put in place both at ministry and at the state level.
  • The DAs should regularly inspect MPLADS works under progress along with the MP concerned and maintain an inspection register to record the findings. All works with an estimated cost of Rs 5 lakh and above should be inspected by the DA.
  • The details of all works executed or in progress should be uploaded after proper data validation. The data uploaded should be periodically reconciled with the works completion reports received from the DAs.
  • The meeting of the monitoring committee at the state level should be convened at least once in a year with wider participation of MPs to enhance accountability of DAs.
  • Restoring and utilising MPLADS funds for priority areas will help in addressing, partly, the resource crunch of the districts. It will also help pave the way for the much-needed collaborative synergies between the political representative and the administration on the ground to augment basic health care facilities in rural areas.
    • For now, the Ministry could earmark all MPLADS money for Covid-19 related spending, constituency wise .
    • Eg: Before the suspension of MPLADS last year,Shashi Tharoor MP used the funds to buy urgently needed Rapid test kits and PPE kits for health workers of Trivandrum.
Conclusion

Suspending MPLADS has left parliamentarians bereft of an instrument in exercising their autonomy and foresight needed in alleviating the impact of the current pandemic.
At a time when the second wave is still devastating lives, and experts predict a third wave, it is critical for the government to restore MPLADS besides adopting a model of genuine decentralized decision-making, needed for local and rural Covid-19 relief measures.

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