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MPLAD Scheme Needs Amendments
IDSAsr | 29 Oct 2015

There are large variations in infrastructure development across the States of Indian Union. A centrally-sponsored plan scheme fully funded by the government of India is one of the steps taken to address the issue of inequity in development. Under this scheme, the funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities.

THE SCHEME: The MPLAD and MLALAD scheme was launched on 23rd December 1993, by former Prime Minister, P V Narasimha Rao to execute small works of a local nature to meet the urgent needs of their constituents.  The scheme empowers every Member of Parliament (MP) to spend a certain sum of amount on the development of his/her constituency on various social development areas such as health, education, drinking water, electricity, family welfare, sanitation and so on. The objective of this Scheme is to fill the gaps existing in the provision of infrastructure through various Central and State schemes thereby enabling wholesome development. The central idea is creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities including community infrastructure, based on local requirements. Under the Scheme, yearly allocations are provided for undertaking developmental works within an electoral constituency. The initial amount allocated was Rs 5 lakh per year to each MP which was enhanced to Rs 5 crores. The MPs can recommend the work(s) in their constituency (in case of Lok Sabha) or anywhere in the state from where they are elected (in case of Rajya Sabha). Under the MPLAD Scheme, the release of instalments and their utilization is non lapsable, i.e. the funds for a particular year can be released and also utilized in the same year or the subsequent year(s) subject to eligibility.The preference is given to works such as related to national priorities, including provision of drinking water, public health, education, sanitation, roads, etc. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has been designated as the nodal agency to coordinate the work and to conduct internal audit of the work carried out by the public representatives. The ministry compiles the data of the utilization of the fund based upon the inputs provided by the concerned. The scheme is 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.It has, however not been smooth sailing for the scheme.  Besides the many implementation lapses (as pointed out by the Standing Committee on Finance in 1998-1999, the CAG and the Planning Commission), the constitutionality of the scheme has been questioned by various scholars and experts.

The scheme was thought to be a potential developmental scheme which would benefits the local residents of every constituency/district in the form of suitable social infrastructure. It was suppose to enthuse more energy into the representatives to recommend productive works in their areas in order to receive favourable votes in the next election.

ROLE OF DISTRICT AUTHORITY: The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritize works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level. The district authorities get the works executed through the line departments, local self governments or other government agencies. In some cases, the district authorities get the works executed through reputed non government organizations. Delay or laxity in sanction or implementation (of works recommended under MPLADS) is the responsibility of the district authorities. The district authorities are generally required to approve eligible recommended works within 75 days and to complete them within one year. The projects should be sanctioned and implemented even if an MP demits his membership as MPLADS funds are non-lapsable. MPs can recommend works up to their full annual entitlement at any time of the year. Each MP can suggest to the district collector works up to the tune of Rs 5 crore a year to be taken up in his or her constituency. The Government of India releases the annual entitlement of Rs. 5 crore in two equal installments of Rs 2.5 crore each, directly to the district authority.

THE PROBLEMS: The scheme largely failed to achieve its objective and met the fate of other similar schemes which benefitted only to certain strata precisely the Politian-bureaucrats-contractors. The scheme though has many credible works in its credit (such as Bihar Flood rehabilitation, Tsunami Works, etc), majority of the fund allocated for the scheme was either unspent or spent frivolously which only bewildered the hopes of the common man and made the nexus even more powerful. The total amount spent using MPLAD scheme is not less than Rs. 4000 crore per annum at the rate of Rs. 5 crore on one MP. The ministry of statistics and programme implementation, the nodal agency in its internal audit has consistently exposed that majority of the MPs in the key competency of spending the amount properly and on effective and duration assets have failed in their duty. The sorry state of affairs even continued in the last lok Sabha (i.e. the 15th Lok Sabha) in which not even a single Member of Parliament has been able to utilize the fund allocated under the scheme for infrastructure development in his/her constituency. Also, recent reply under Right to Information Act, 2005 showed that in majority of the districts, the guidelines for implementing the scheme were violated and some MPs even went to the extent of creating their own assets out of this fund contravening the strict guidelines on what areas the money can be spent. The implementation of the scheme was entitled to the district authorities only to make it more efficient and without any undue involvement from the concerned MP. It was also entrusted that a transparent and accountable system will be developed by the giving the implementation to seasoned officer (such as engineers, accountants, etc) under the direct control and supervision of the District collector. The MP was allowed to only inspect the work created so far. However, it could not prevent the nexus to develop and use it to fulfill their objectives rather than the objectives which were envisioned at its conception. In addition MP's recommend work based upon yes person/followers of his/er party affiliations and mostly in his party dominated areas leaving aside/untouched the areas of opposition from h/she did not have favourable votes - A mere shame on the democracy too. If corruption is the biggest illness that business faces then there is a vaccine and that is transparency. We all need to be vaccinators, front-line workers for transparency.

MPLAD and Principle of Separation of Power: One of the important issues is that MPLAD Scheme assigns executive functions to legislators and thereby confuses the separation of power. The Second Administrative reform Commission used this critique to recommend that the Scheme be abolished. As local bodies are better placed to deliver civic services then it may be wiser to devolve funds directly to them rather than to the MPs.

IMPROVISATION: MPLAD scheme can be improved with certain tweaks in its implementation reforms. The districts authorities and MPs should be answerable to the effective utilization of the fund and there should an incentive for those officials who are doing the work as per the expectations to achieve the common objective of local development via creating durable social assets. The continuous monitoring recommendation of Controller and Auditor General (CAG) of India should also be followed. The MPLAD scheme has great potential to develop each constituency and district provided it has been studded with proper implementation mechanism which should essentially break this nexus of politician-bureaucrat-contractor.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament K V Thomas said MPs cutting across party lines will meet the Prime Minister, demanding enhancement of the MPLADS fund from Rs five crore to Rs 50 crore for implementation of the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. "Our demand is either enhance the MPLADS fund to Rs 50 crore, or give special assistance to the projects in the model villages. Thomas said at present the "lacuna" in the Prime Minister's scheme is that there is no special assistance for the model villages from the Government of India. On the other hand, Government of India says to coordinate all the state government and central government projects in these model villages and develop the village and use the Rs five crore which is given as MPLADS fund. This is not practical. MPLADS funds have to be used in all parts of the parliament constituencies and not in a particular village. Now the government is considering a proposal to increase annual allocation under the MPLADS from Rs 5 crore to Rs 25 crore for every MP. Had the initial amount of Rs five crore used properly; there would have been transformational change in the India especially the rural areas. There is a very strong need for proper execution and implementation of the scheme in its true spirit.

The data shows that not a single rupee was spent in 278 constituencies (51 per cent) in 2014-15. Of these, 223 MPs did not recommend any amount. Considering that MPs have a recommendatory role in the scheme, it is surprising to see that 41 per cent of them haven't even recommended any amount for their constituency. In the remaining 55 constituencies, the MP recommended works but no money was spent by the district authority. In all, the average amount of recommendations made was worth Rs. 2.16 crore, while the average expenditure incurred was mere Rs. 57 lakh. However, it must be noted that the funds for a particular year can be carried forward for utilisation in subsequent years. Some development projects might cost more than the allocated amount of Rs. 5 crore, which might be one reason for low utilisation of MPLADS funds for the first year in some constituencies.

Sh Narinder Modi should review this and reduce it to Rs one crore only with a max of Rs 5 crores based on merit. Just imagine if these funds are made available to Rotary clubs all over India, they can implement many socially beneficial projects with full accountability. Majority of MPs are wasting public money – A very heavy price in the name of democracy? On the pattern of reconstituting of Planning Commission into National Institute of Transforming India ( NITI Aayog); - a step towards decentralization; both the schemes, namely, MPLAD as well as MLALAD should be scrapped and replaced with the State Development Programme, which would be implemented at the District level.  The schemes would be selected by a district selection committee headed by the minister-in-charge and MLAs and MLCs; Councilors/ Sarpanches of that district as members.  The implementation shall rest with a body of engineers, headed by Engineer-in-chief.  The district Magistrates would only monitor implementation and contractors would be chosen through open/e - tendering in which a representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) would be present.  The Centre/state government would allocate funds as per requirement.Initially, Village/Ward Development Committee should be constituted which will prepare the village/ward development programme based upon the immediate and most pressing needs of the area. These V/W Plans should be put up in the Assembly Development Area Committee. MLA's of the area in consultation with the Sarpanches/councilors of h/er assembly area should prepare development plan of assembly area. Finally these assembly plans should be merged into the district/Parliament area plan and ultimately into State Plan. The schemes would be selected by a District Development Committee headed by the minister-in-charge and MLAs and MLCs; of that district as members. Non official members (four to five having a rich development experience in agriculture and allied sector, health, water and sanitation and service sector like education etc) can be co-opted into the committee. Committee should select different works to be undertaken in the district depending upon urgency and need of the area. These Committees should meet twice a year as funds are released by the central Government twice a year. No work should be sanctioned before the expiry of five years from its last completion. It is further suggested/recommended that all the development work should be routed through single window scheme/development funds because it is observed that same work is shown to be completed under different schemes - a very bad name of in the cause of democracy. It will avoid duplication of the work already completed.

The implementation shall rest with a body of engineers, headed by Engineer-in-chief.  The District Magistrates would only monitor implementation and contractors would be chosen through open/e - tendering in which a representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) would be present.  The Centre/state government would allocate funds as per requirement. Cutting across party lines, all MLA of the MP's area should also be involved in the development of the areas. Moreover MPLAD should also be linked to MGNEREGA. Funds available under NEREGA scheme could also be utilized for better development and planning.

The scheme can be linked with MGNEREGA scheme where in the labour component can be adjusted in the later scheme and other development schemes. Village Development Committee should be constituted inter alia including Local MP, MLA, local panchayats leaders and others elders of the village. VDC should prepared need based village development plan and funds from all agencies be clubbed for its implementations and works executed accordingly. VD plan should have a separate component for example education development, water and sanitation development, roads development, health, electricity and so on. Component having least inequalities may be provided top most priorities and inter village inequalities minimized. It will also reduced inter village/city migration. Initially top priorities may be given to basic needs of the village development followed by luxury development such as communities' hall infrastructure and so on. Funds from all sections should be merged and development undertaken through Panchayati Raj institution. It's an Extension of the Adarsh Village Gram Plan adopted by the present NDA Government led by Sh Narinder Modi wherein all the villages will be at the same level in one respect or the other. As such India will be really Developed India especially the rural India. However, it needs a very strong POLITICAL WILL irrespective of the party affiliations which is lacking in our political leaders. Furthermore Minor Development Works of emergencies nature can be adopted out of VDP on priorities basis too. NITI Aayog should take over the function of Online Centralised Monitoring System for review of infrastructure projects from the MOSPI. PEO of NITI Aayog may be renamed and restructured to handle the monitoring and evaluation mandate of NITI Aayog and could be headed by an officer of level of DG (Additional Secretary) and may be attached office of the NITI Aayog.