The details of local area development (LAD) funds provided to elected representatives -- MPs, MLAs and Municipal Councillors – would soon be put up on display boards in Hindi in all the wards of Delhi, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said at a “public hearing” organised by NGO Satark Nagrik Sangathan here.
At the hearing on Sunday, people handed over a complaint -- signed by over 1,000 citizens -- to Mr. Gandhi demanding that boards should be put up in each ward giving details of the projects on which MPs, MLAs and Municipal Councillors in Delhi are spending their local area development funds.
After listening to peoples' testimonies, Mr. Gandhi assured that he would take up the matter in the Information Commission and pass orders to ensure that details of development funds provided to elected representatives are indeed put up.
The meeting was also attended by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who commented that this information is extremely relevant and should be put up in front of each elected representative's office so that citizens can easily have access to it.
Founder of SNS Anjali Bharadwaj said every year about Rs. 450 crore is provided to elected representatives in Delhi to spend on the development needs of their constituency but the general public remains woefully unaware of this. “Every MP and MLA is allocated Rs.2 crore under their respective local area development schemes and Municipal Councillors are allocated Rs. 1 crore (varies from year to year) under the Councillor Funds. There are 7 MPs, 70 MLAs and 272 Municipal Councillors in Delhi,” she said.
At the hearing, citizens testified that most people have no information about the existence of the local area development funds or how the funds are utilised. They also said that if these funds are utilised properly they could be extremely useful in addressing the development problems faced by people.
Rekha, a resident of Jagdamba camp slum in Malviya Nagar, noted that despite repeated complaints to the MLA and Councillor highlighting the filthy state of the only public toilet in the slum, nothing was ever done by the elected representatives who constantly cited lack of resources and funds. “They only come to ask for votes and then never meet with us to consult about our needs. We did not even know that they get funds for the development of their constituency.”
Similarly, residents of Sangam Vihar, Dwarka, Munirka and Shahdara stated that they have no information about what these funds, meant for the development of the local area, are spent on.
“Some information about these funds has been displayed on government websites, but for the majority of Delhi's population -- the economically weaker sections -- this is not easily accessible as they neither have easy access to the internet nor can they read English,” Ms. Bhardwaj said, explaining the rationale behind demanding that the information be put up on boards across Delhi.
“Under Section 4 of the RTI Act this kind of information has to be provided to people by the government in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public and in the local language,” she added.