Context

On April 6, the government decided to suspend operation of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for the next two financial years, and divert Rs 7,900 crore to the fight against COVID-19.

Conception and History of MPLADS

The government announced the MPLAD Scheme on December 23, 1993. It was formulated to enable the members of Parliament to identify small works based on locally felt needs in their constituencies.

  • The objective being to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets.
  • Initially, this scheme was administered by Ministry of Rural Development. Later, in October 1994, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) has been looking into its working.

Elected Members of Rajya Sabha representing the whole of the State as they do, may select works for implementation in one or more district(s) as they may choose.

Main Features

  1. The MPLADS is a Scheme fully funded by Government of India.
  2. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
  3. 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 5 per cent for areas inhabited by S.T. population.
  4. Funds are non-lapsable in naturee. in case of non-release of fund in a particular year it is carried forward to the next year.
  5. The fund is directly released to the district authority, which has the responsibility to sanction, execute and complete the works.
  6. Funds for MPLADS can be converged with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for creating more durable assets and with National Program for Development of Sports (Khelo India).
  7. In order to encourage trusts and societies for the betterment of tribal people, a ceiling of Rs. 75 lakh is stipulated for building assets by trusts and societies subject to conditions prescribed in the scheme guidelines.
  8. 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).
  9. Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
  10. All works to meet locally felt infrastructure and development needs, with an emphasis on creation of durable assets in the constituency are permissible under MPLADS as prescribed in the scheme guidelines.

Implementation

Type of recommended work

Works which will serve greater public purpose and not purpose of few individuals need to be recommended. MPs can only recommend, but District Authorities have the ultimate power to sanction it.

  1. Key priority sectors :
  • Drinking water facility,
  • education,
  • electricity facility,
  • non-conventional energy resources,
  • healthcare and sanitation,
  • irrigation facilities, agriculture and allied activities,
  • railways, roads, pathways and bridges,
  • sports,
  • Self-help group development, urban development.
  1. Works not permitted:
  • Construction of office and residential buildings for public and private agencies,
  • Land acquisition or paying compensation,
  • Naming assets after individuals, grants or loans to state/central relief fund,
  • Assets for individual benefits,
  • Works on lands belonging to religious groups,
  • Execution of works in unauthorized colonies.
  1. Other works permitted:
  • Construction of railway halt station,
  • Providing CCTV camera in strategic locations,
  • Installation of bio-digesters at stations, schools, hospitals,
  • provision for fixed weighing scale machines for farmers,
  • Installation of rainwater harvesting systems in public spaces,
  • Construction of shelters for skill development.

Guidelines for MPLADS announced by MOSPI

  • A plaque should be permanently erected at the work place mentioning MP’s name, year, cost involved etc.
  • List of complete and ongoing works under MPLADS should be displayed at District Authority office and MPLADS website (www.mplads.gov.in).
  • Citizens can file RTI to know about the status of funds and work.
  • Funds utilized should be audited by chartered accountants, local fund auditors, or any statutory auditors as per state/UT Govt. procedure.
  • Review meetings should be held by MoSPI in states and centre regarding fund utilization under MPLADS scheme.
  • Respective district authorities should also review work implementation with the implementation agency every month, or at least once in a quarter.
  • Projects implemented by government agencies would be provided 75 per cent of the project cost as the first instalment, while those implemented by non-governmental agencies would be provided 60 per cent.
  • The basket of works that could be taken up under the scheme had been widened to include projects such as the purchase of books for libraries, and ambulances and hearse vans that would be owned and controlled by district authorities.

Advantages of MPLADS

  1. The fund under MPLADS can be spent across a large number of developmental works including creation of infrastructure like railway halts, roads and bridges, building basic amenities like toilets, schools, etc.
  2. MPLADS fund is also used in areas affected by natural or man-made calamities. During the floods in Kerala in 2018, MPs from Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha contributed close to Rs 46 core towards the relief work in Kerala.
  3. MPLADS fund used to fill the gaps in relief work left by the central and state governments to facilitate more decentralized and rapid responses
  4. MPLADS preserved the sense of direct responsibility for the well-being of constituents that is the hallmark of an Indian MP’s work.
  5. MPLADS is a very nimble and effective scalpel of targeted micro-level intervention.
  6. It is a tool of cooperative federalism
  7. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has announced a new scheme “One MP – One Idea” under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) which has proven useful for grassroot innovations

One MP – One Idea‘One MP – One Idea’ Competition may be held in each Lok Sabha constituency annually to select the three best innovations for cash awards on the specific request of an MP to promote such a scheme in his/her constituency.

This competition, launched at constituency level annually, selects the best models for education, skill-building, energy and environment, housing, etc.

Individuals, groups, NGOs, industry, and academia can take part in this competition.

Issues with MPLADS

  • MPLADS is projected as having the character of decentralized development founded on the principle of participatory development, but there is no indicator available to measure the level of participation.
  • There is also no indication how ‘locally felt needs’ were ascertained.
  • Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India observed in its 2010 report that participation of various constituents in a MP’s constituency such as residence forum or local NGOs were ignored to understand local needs.
  • MPLADS as political mileage for elections as majority of the unspent balance and new funds were spent in the last year of the term.
  • Insufficient monitoring of sanctioned works
  • Since start there have been reports of malpractices in running the scheme and there have been demands to scrap it.
  • There is no measurable indicator specified for monitoring. Functioning of state level monitoring committees is questionable
  • Monitoring activities are also not mentioned in the annual reports.
  • There is no indication of monitoring of asset condition after immediate completion of work and after asset utilization for stipulated time.
  • Cases of faulty sanction of works were found where DAs sanctioned work without recommendation from MPs, or at a higher cost than estimated.
  • Unfruitful expenditure incurred due to incomplete works which were suspended or abandoned. Delays in sanctioning works were found.
  • The constitutionality of the scheme has been questioned by various scholars and experts. In 2002, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution recommended immediate discontinuation of the MPLAD scheme
  • The 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission’s report on “Ethics in Governance” taking a firm stand against the scheme arguing that it seriously erodes the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive.

In May 2010, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court 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.There are checks and balances in place through the guidelines which have to be adhered to and the fact that each MP is ultimately responsible to the Parliament.

Way Forward

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has suggested that a single parliamentary committee be formed comprising of members of both Houses of Parliament to monitor MPLAD schemes.

Problems such as poor utilization of funds, irregular sanction of works, and delay in completion of works must be tackled in an efficient manner to further increase the efficacy of the scheme

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