Recently, the Central government decided to suspend the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) scheme for two years in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. It sought to garner around 7,900 crores by suspending the scheme for the fight against the corona crisis. Following this, few state governments decided to suspend their MLALAD schemes too. This decision attracted diverse commentary by media and civil society.
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What is the MPLAD scheme?
- Formulated in 1993 as a central sector scheme, the scheme enables the Member of Parliaments to recommend development works in their constituencies.
- It helps create durable assets based on locally felt needs, primarily drinking water, education, public health, sanitation.
- Initially it was implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development. In 1994, it was transferred to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
What are the Salient Features of the Scheme?
- It is fully funded by the central government. Each MP constituency receives Rs. 5 crores (non-lapsable) per year (Initially it was 5 lakhs).
- MPs can recommend works in constituencies. The amount is given as a grant-in-aid directly to the district authorities on the requisite of documents.
- While recommending works, every year, work costing at least 15% must be recommended for areas inhabited by Scheduled castes population and 7.5 % for areas inhabited by Scheduled Tribes population.
- If a Sufficient tribal population does not exist within the constituency, MPs recommend funds to tribal areas outside the constituency within the state.
- MPs have only a recommendatory role and the District Administration is empowered to examine the eligibility of works, select the implementing agencies, and monitor it.
- Elected Lok Sabha MPs can recommend works within their constituencies.
- Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the state from which they have been elected.
- The nominated members can recommend works anywhere in the country.
- In case of a calamity of severe nature, in any part of the country, an MP recommends works up to a maximum of Rs. 1 crore for the affected district.
- According to “The guidelines on MPLADs” released in 2016 by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, MPLAD funds can also be used for Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat), Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, etc.
What are the benefits of this scheme?
- The scheme allows MPs a discretionary fund that can be used as he recommends giving autonomy over the fund.
- It helps negate local issues of importance such as drinking water and sanitation.
- 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.
- when continuation of the scheme was approved in 2018, it was noted that “the entire population across the country stands to benefit through MPLAD Scheme”.
Why has the scheme been criticized sometimes?
- It is criticized for inconsistency with the spirit of the constitution as it co-opts legislators into executive functioning.
- It also allows MPs to encroach into the domain of Local Self-Government’s jurisdiction breaching IX and IX-A of the constitution.
- The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2000) and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007), recommended discontinuation of the scheme.
- Another form of criticism comes from allegations of corruption associated with the works. The CAG many times has pointed out the inconsistencies and flouting of the rules.
- CAG in its report points out
- Expenditures incurred to be less than the sanctioned amount.
- 78% of the spent amount went into improvements of existing assets when the scheme suggests that it should be used in asset creation.
- 508 MPs (93.55%) did not, or could not, utilize the entire MPLADS amount in the 16th Lok Sabha according to a report in IndiaSpend.
- It is seen as promoting the politics of patronage through MPs.
What was the need to suspend the Scheme?
- The central Government has suspended the scheme for two years and the amount will go to the consolidated fund of India to be used in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis.
- This amount is to be used in strengthening the health infrastructure needed to combat the pandemic.
- As the Funds go into the Consolidated Fund of India, it comes directly under parliamentary oversight, it can be used judiciously.
Why the suspension was criticized?
- The suspension has been criticized as anti-federal stand and an attempt to centralization of power rendering MPs powerless.
- It is contended that MPLADS was a nimble instrument available with MPS for customized micro-level interventions in times of need such as the current health crisis.
- The central government is being criticized for taking away a sense of direct responsibility for the well-being of the constituency which is a hallmark of an Indian MP’s hallmark.
- MPLAD scheme has been held constitutional by the Supreme court hence its importance in the developmental works cannot be downgraded.
- Various committees and guidelines have highlighted the role of MPLADS in making a positive difference.
- The last thing we need now is the politicization of the fight against the corona crisis.
- Rather than targeting MPLADS for ineffectiveness, work must be done to eliminate structural issues highlighted by the CAG reports.
- COVID-19 is a very critical crisis that needs special attention. The suspension might have been needed for garnering Funds for prioritization.
- As the suspension is for specifically for Two years so it is not being scrapped forever.
- What was needed is a discourse before suspending a scheme which was running for development for 27 years.
Practice Question for Mains
What is the MPLAD scheme? Critically examine its importance in MP’s developmental responsibilities (250 words)