The article focus on the MPLADS and analysis the way forward to make this scheme more relevant.
- In 1993, the then prime minister announced the “Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme” or MPLADS. The scheme was initiated to enable and empower MPs to develop their constituencies based on perceived local needs.
- The primary duty of MPs is legislative and, therefore, one might ask, why even introduce something like MPLADS?
- However, it is clear that the MP’s responsibility as an elected representative of his/her constituency is also to ensure that their constituents’ developmental needs are met.
- This perhaps also affects the electoral prospects, which are certainly not determined by the legislative work. Therefore, MPLADS facilitates a partial fulfilment of MPs’ developmental role.
- There has been a constant debate on whether there is a need to reformulate the MPLADS to make it more efficient.
- MPLADS is a centrally sponsored scheme fully funded by the government. Under MPLADS, MPs are given a choice of recommending development works to the tune of R5 crore per annum to the district collector of a nodal district in their parliamentary constituency.
Working of MPLADS
- Earlier, the scheme was administered by the ministry of rural development, but the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI), is currently responsible.
- The process pertaining to the working of MPLADS starts with MoSPI at the top followed by the state nodal department, the district authority (DAs) and finally the implementing agency (IA). Supervision and monitoring is in the hands of state nodal departments.
- The scheme mandates that Panchayati Raj Institutions be preferred as the IA.
Performance of MPs
- One of the key tests of their competence is how effective have their recommendations been for utilisation of MPLADS funds.
- Since 2008, internal audits by MoSPI show that majority of MPs have failed this test. As far as the 15th Lok Sabha goes, audits show that not even a single MP has been able to effectively utilise allocated funds for development in his/her constituency.
Opinions in favour of scrapping this scheme
- There are many that favour scrapping MPLADS on account of violation of guidelines by MPs, DAs and IAs; ineffective utilisation/misuse of funds, poor monitoring mechanisms etc.
- Some petitioners have even argued for scrapping the MPLAD scheme by challenging its constitutionality before the Supreme Court.
- The main reasons were that the scheme violated the concept of separation of powers (as MPs become members of the executive) and there were rampant use MPLADS funds.
- The court observed that the role of MPs is limited to ‘recommending’ works as the actual implementation is done by local authorities. Therefore, the scheme does not violate separation of powers.
- Despite the Supreme Court declaring the validity of the scheme, there are regular demands for either scrapping or reinventing the scheme.
- According to the Evaluation Report of Planning Commission, maintenance of assets is a major weakness. There is simply no accountability on maintenance of assets created.
- In 2011, the Performance Audit Report No 31 on MPLADS concluded that there is no point continuing with a scheme that has failed so spectacularly to deliver and has only furthered the politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus—the bane of India’s governance structure.
- According to this CAG report, “the fact that the funds under the scheme are non-lapsable leads to a large amount of unspent balance, which is rising over the years.”
- Reasons for this, cited by Collectors and development functionaries, include recommendation of fewer works by some MPs and inadequate allocation for individual works. One solution to this problem, suggested by some of the MPs, is to make the fund lapsable and return the funds annually to the Ministry.
Need for structured research
- The MPLAD scheme should not be scrapped as this provides feasible means for ground level development. Instead, factors that result in its inefficient utilisation and those which can improve its effectiveness should be identified and addressed.
- A primary reason for underutilisation is that MPs have no real knowledge of actual needs of their constituents or of the development landscape of the constituency. This can be addressed by structured research to support constituency development and planning.
- This will not only enable the MPs to understand the ground level reality of his/her constituency but also aid in better and planned utilisation of funds that can also ensure maintenance of assets created.
- New MPs are using grievance redressal mechanisms for prioritising their constituency development agenda. However, this approach is merely targeted towards problem-solving with no development impact.
- Therefore, a planned approach towards development based on detailed primary survey, data analysis and empirical research that also takes into account central and state welfare schemes would yield better results.
- It is time to locate MPLADS in the broader context of district-level planned development, which requires a more systematic approach.
There are many that favour scrapping MPLADS on multiple accounts. But, the MPLAD scheme should not be scrapped as this provides feasible means for ground level development. Instead, factors that result in its inefficient utilisation and those which can improve its effectiveness should be identified and addressed. Examine.
- Factors resulting in efficient utilisation.
- How to address these factors.
- Further suggestions to improve the scheme effectiveness.