The COVID-19 has brought the entire world down to knees. Governments across the world have taken necessary steps to provide adequate funds to deal with the impact of the pandemic. Indian government has announced different packages for helping people in need, medical professionals, front line workers etc during this global pandemic. One of the recent measures adopted by Indian government is regarding the funds available to MPs under the MPLAD scheme.
MPLAD is a centrally sponsored scheme which allows MPs to recommend the district authorities work related to developmental activities as per the needs of local area. The scheme provides that MP’s may recommend developmental works up to the amount of 5 crore rupees per annum which will be executed by the district authorities. Due to non lapsable nature of funds under this scheme, a certain amount of funds has been accumulated under the scheme since its introduction in 1993. Recently, government allowed the funds under the scheme to be used for procuring personal protection equipments in order to combat the ongoing global pandemic. Subsequently, the scheme was suspended for two years and the funds were diverted towards the fight against COVID-19.
In order to strengthen its efforts and to deal with the adverse effects of COVID-19 in the country, government brought about certain modifications in the MPLAD scheme. In March 2020, government allowed use of MPLAD funds for procurement of medical equipments like corona testing kits, ICU ventilators, face masks, gloves, personal protection equipments etc. Subsequently in April, government decided to release funds for dealing with COVID-19 by suspending the MPLAD scheme for two years and diverting the available funds for fighting COVID-19. The suspension of MPLAD scheme will free around Rs. 7900 crore which is to be used to develop the health infrastructure in India needed to combat the pandemic. The funds are to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund of India from where it will be utilised for COVID-19 related spending.
MPLADS, Its Features and Why It Was Implemented
MPLADS stands for Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme. It is a centrally sponsored scheme that was introduced in 1993 by the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. The scheme is administered by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Under the scheme MPs have been given the choice of recommending developmental works up to rupees 5 crore per annum to the district authorities in their parliamentary constituency. The funds available were up to 5 lakhs per annum in 1993-94 during its introduction which was increased to rupees 2 crore per annum in 1998-99 and it has been 5 crore per annum since 2011-12.
The funds available under the scheme are non lapsable and they can be used in subsequent years also. MPs from both the houses i.e. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha including the nominated MPs can recommend development works under MPLADS. Lok Sabha MPs can recommend work within their constituency, Rajya Sabha MPs can recommend work within their respective states and the nominated MPs of both houses can recommend work anywhere within the country. Different states allocate different funds (MLALAD) as per their version of scheme being implemented by them. Delhi allocates the highest amount up to rupees 10 crore per annum, Punjab, Kerala allocate rupees 5 crore per annum, Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka etc allocate rupees 2 crore per annum etc.
Under MPLADS, MPs recommend work of their choice to district authorities who then execute the work at ground level through government agencies, local self governments, reputed NGOs etc. The funds are directly transferred to district authorities who are to execute the work. MPs are even allowed to recommend work to societies or trusts up to rupees 50 lakhs per annum. Besides these under MPLADS, MPs can recommend work in areas affected by natural calamities like floods, cyclones etc. Under limited cases certain additional works are also permitted under MPLAD like recently government allowed for use of funds for purchase of personal protection equipments due to the pandemic situation. The scheme also has established a time frame of 75 days from date of receipt of recommendations for sanctioning of works and a time frame of 45 days for the district authorities to inform the MPs regarding any rejections if any and the reasons for rejection. Further, the time for completion of works should not exceed one year. Under the scheme certain works are also kept under the non-permissible list like office buildings, residential buildings, works belonging to commercial organisations, repair and maintenance work of any durable assets, memorials, land acquisition etc are not allowed under the scheme.
The scheme has been brought under the ambit of RTI act and as per the norms of transparency of RTI act, the scheme also has mechanism for being transparent. The information regarding details of work like funds sanctioned, funds utilised, work progress etc are to be made available in the official site of MPLADS and also they are to be displayed at the office of district authority. It has also been mentioned that all works executed under the scheme should have a plaque with the inscription “Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme Works” indicating the details of the work like cost involved, date of inauguration, completion, name of MP etc. For monitoring purposes, the funds are also subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
In a developing nation like India, it is essential that better quality public goods, better services and an enhanced standard of living is available for people. In such a scenario, it is necessary that MP’s as the elected representatives of their respective constituencies ensure that the developmental needs of their constituency are met and the local needs and demands of the people are addressed. For the fulfilment of MPs’ developmental roles and for enabling the MPs to identify small works of development in their local areas and complete them, government announced the MPLADS in 1993 with the objective of giving adequate emphasis to the creation of durable community assets with focus on works like providing clean drinking water, proper educational infrastructure, proper roads etc.
Pros and Cons of MPLADS
MPLADS was introduced with the intention of allowing the MPs the right to perform certain developmental works in their constituencies as per the local needs. Government schemes are implemented for welfare and overall development however it is the duty of an MP to ensure that the benefits of the schemes reach the people and in case certain additional work is needed than they should ensure that it is done properly so that people are benefitted. In this backdrop MPLADS plays a vital role in ensuring that MPs recommend developmental works with focus on providing drinking water, construction of proper roads, health care facilities, educational infrastructure etc. It has been seen that lakhs of projects have been sanctioned under MPLADS since its introduction and different evaluators have reported that MPLADS has resulted in creation of good quality assets that has positive impact on local economy and helps to meet the local needs of people primarily in rural areas where majority of the projects have been sanctioned under MPLADS. MPLADS aims to address the grass root level needs and demands of the people.
Though MPLADS has been beneficial for the people, it is not free from issues. It has been argued that MPLADS violates the principle of separation of powers by entrusting executive function to legislature. Though MPs only recommend projects which is executed by district authorities, it has been seen that district authorities usually do not have the power to defy the wishes of MPs even when the project is not feasible. It has also been seen that the guidelines under MPLADS ensuring that the funds are used for listed specific purposes and guidelines ensuring that the progress and all other details of work be made available for public scrutiny have been flouted repeatedly giving rise to opaqueness in the scheme thereby decreasing its efficiency. Also, the non-lapsable clause of MPLADS has resulted in accumulation of funds as many MPs have failed to utilise the funds allocated under the scheme. A significant proportion of funds remain unspent and get accumulated while in other cases it has been seen that funds are used for fulfilment of personal agenda or else funds are spent in a haphazard manner. Numerous reports from CAG have stated that there has been large scale mismanagement of finances under the scheme. Certain reports have also stated that MPLAD funds are being spent on non admissible areas like payment of wages, travelling expenses of officials, purchase of laptops, repair and maintenance work and other prohibited projects.
The constitutionality of MPLADS has been challenged in the Supreme Court number of times in 1999 followed by petitions in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005 due to repeated instances of financial mismanagements, misutilisation of funds, repeated reports of CAG highlighting mal functioning of the scheme and on the grounds that it is violative of principle of separation of power, violative of equality (article 14), violative of articles 275, 282, the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment. However, the Supreme Court in its 2010 judgement upheld the constitutionality of MPLADS.
How to Improve MPLADS?
MPLADS has been suffering from lack of proper monitoring, misuse of funds and opaqueness in the execution procedure. However instead of scrapping it off completely it will be in better interest of public to modify it and bring in certain necessary changes so as to increase its efficiency. First, it should be strictly ensured that the details of work, funds allocated for projects, expenditure made, and other details of project being undertaken under MPLADS be made available for public access so that chances of fraud are reduced. Similarly, the software for monitoring MPLADS that was launched in 2004 needs to be strengthened as it will serve as s measure for increasing transparency of the scheme. Second, the clause which makes the funds non lapsable should be struck down and it should be ensured that unutilised funds reaches back to the Consolidated Fund of India so that it does not get accumulated and is used for some other purpose.
Third is the issue that MPs lack knowledge of the actual needs of people and hence projects fail to fulfil the demands of people. This can be rectified by going for research and analysis so that MPs become aware of the actual needs of people so that projects undertaken are better planned and funds are better utilised. Lastly, it has been seen that projects being undertaken are merely to solve issues and have little developmental approach. So a proper study of the welfare schemes that are present along with regular surveys and data analysis of the local area would yield better results.
MPLADS was introduced in 1993 so as to empower the MPs to recommend developmental works up to a fixed amount per annum. MPs were to recommend work to district authorities based on the needs of local area people and funds were to be directly transferred to district authorities who were responsible for execution of projects at the ground level. MPLAD funds have been accumulating over the years due to its non-lapsable nature and because MPs have failed to utilise the funds effectively for developmental works. The constitutionality of MPLADS was questioned in the Supreme Court and the Court upheld that it was constitutional as it did not violate any constitutional principles. However, numerous instances have been seen where the funds under MPLADS are misutilised. The monitoring, audit and transparency clauses of the scheme have been regularly violated and need urgent modification for the scheme to be beneficial. It is crucial that the guidelines mentioned under the scheme in order to stop any form of malfunctioning are strictly followed so that the funds are actually used for meeting the demands of local people.