In defence of MPLADS

The Indian Parliament is the nucleus of the republic. It has a legion of functions to perform. Subhash Kashyap, in Our Parliament, has enumerated the multiple functions of Parliament. It includes political and financial control, supervision of administration, elicitation and dissemination of information on the government of the day, grievance ventilation, national integration, legislative and constituent functions and furnishing leadership to the nation. The functions are non-exhaustive and incremental.

Doing away with a vital role

The responsibility of an MP does not end with the supervision of administration and legislation. He has to find solutions to the grievances of the electorate of his constituency and promote their developmental aspirations. As Parliament is a multifunctional institution, an MP is a multifunctional representative. His representative and grievance ventilation functions should not end with petitioning ministers and officials. An MP knows the developmental and welfare issues of his constituency better than anyone else. The Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) has enabled MPs to play a leadership role in the developmental process of his constituency and sort out its day-to-day problems. The suspension of the MPLADS for 2020-21 and 2021-22 in the wake of the pandemic has done away with this vital role of MPs.

The government’s decision to suspend MPLADS funds for two years evoked mixed reactions. Many Opposition parties opposed the move. On social media, many people supported the move and even demanded the scrapping of the scheme altogether citing reasons that are unfounded. A close examination of the arguments against the MPLADS will expose their hollowness. The first is that the very nature of the scheme gives space for corruption. This is not supported by empirical data. The vital role of an MP in the MPLADS ends with selecting micro development projects for his constituency. Implementation of these projects is done by district-level officers under the vigilant eye of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The projects are implemented according to the Ministry’s guidelines. Furthermore, the Scheme undergoes an impartial and meticulous auditing. The second instalment of funds is released only when the first instalment is fully utilised with no audit objections. This procedure leaves no place for corruption.

The pork barrel policy of State and Union Governments often leads to skewed development and regional imbalance. The ruling party channels public money to particular constituencies based on political considerations, at the expense of broader public interests. The elected opposition legislators of those constituencies fall victim to this pork barrel politics. MPLADS has been an antidote to this favouritism. The Scheme provided opposition MPs some chance to cater to the developmental needs of their constituency. The suspension of the Scheme has snatched away this limited opportunity.

Aspirations of the marginalised

Of the MPLADS corpus, 15% has been earmarked for the development of Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for the Scheduled Tribes. Around ₹20 lakh of the MPLADS fund per annum has been allotted for the welfare of differently abled people. Suspension of the MPLADS undermines the developmental aspirations of these marginalised segments.

In Kerala there are handsome funds at the disposal of MLAs. In 2012, Kerala announced the launching of the Legislative Assembly Constituency Asset Development Fund. This aims at creating durable assets for which each MLA will be allocated ₹5 crore during a particular financial year for undertaking capital works in his/her constituency so as to improve infrastructural facilities. The corpus has subsequently been enhanced to ₹6 crore per annum. The suspension of the MPLADS undermines the prestige of MPs vis-à-vis MLAs. A scheme that catered to the developmental aspirations of local people, ironed out the regional imbalances and made MPs engaged should be restored as early as possible.

Rajmohan Unnithan is MP in the Lok Sabha from Kasaragod

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 2:04:32 PM |

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