WHAT IS MPLADS?
Published by: Gautham Krishna
Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (Herein referred to as MPLADS) is a central government Programme executed during Narasimha Rao’s government. It enables MPs to propose developmental initiatives involving an expenditure of Rs. 5 crores in their corresponding constituencies every year. The recommended members of either Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha are entrusted to select any one or multiple districts from one state for administration of their choice of work under this scheme. The scheme, launched in 1993, empowers the MPs for the establishment of durable assets to meet the needs of the locals in the form of water needs, construction of roads, sanitation facilities, etc.
The major reason behind the implementation is to address and fulfill the requisites of the citizens directly on a large scale and to introduce infrastructural developments, sanitation facilities, educational advances at the local levels. Upon the recommendations of MPs, the locality needs are addressed by the District Authorities as per the administrative, financial rules of the State government. The recommendations under this scheme are regulated by the guidelines on MPLADS which was issued first in February 1994.
MPLADS is funded by the Indian government and the communal can approach MPs to address their basic requirements wherein infrastructural plans are formulated by the MPs within the ambit of the guidelines. The funding is directed neither to the MPs nor the MLAs but directly to the concerned local authorities. The segregation of funding differs from state to state. The guidelines place its reliance upon the fabrication of durable assets and only at restrictive circumstances can acquirement of non-durable assets becomes permissible. One such recent instance of exerting funds for the purchase of non-durable assets is the COVID 19 testing kits and related appliances.
MPLAD scheme has continued without any hindrance for the past 27 years and since its inception, the scheme had paved the way for the creation of numerous durable assets as emphasized by the guidelines. The minimum standard amount for the enhancement of any project under the scheme is Rs. 1 lakh and it is at the discretion of the District Authority to award any sum of amount as he deems fit for any developmental projects. The guidelines mandate the MPs to propose infrastructural and development work incurring at least 15 percent of the total expenditure of a year towards the Scheduled caste inhabited areas and a minimum of 7.5 percent to the areas of Scheduled Tribes population.
At the initial implementation of the scheme, it was administered by the Ministry of Rural Development. Later from October of 1994, the regulation affairs have been intervened by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The power vests with the said ministry for issuance of guidelines and any amendment, if so entails. The ministry coordinates with the center for the advancement and governing of MPLADS. At the state level, the nodal department is erected by each state and Union territories to resolve the productive implementation of MPLADS. The nodal fabricated is responsible and accountable to the center, as a result, it is required to coordinate with the actions of the regulatory ministry.
The district head or rather the district authority, upon the recommendations put forth by the MPs, mandates the furtherance of developmental activities complying with the scheme at the local levels. The fund is channeled directly to the respective district heads and is responsible for the proper utilization of these funds to supervise the progress of the recommended activities and also to provide maintenance for the assets created through this scheme.
The initial stages of this scheme commence with the recommendations of an elected Lok Sabha member in his constituency. The member of Rajya Sabha has the privilege to recommend activities in any state or district. The expenditure for the suggested projects of the legislators cannot exceed their annual entitlement. The District authority has the administrative powers but the State government's approval and sanction are required for tender, technical sanctions, a scheme of rates, etc.
Suspension Of MPLADS:
Recently, the Union Cabinet had passed and approved an ordinance “temporarily suspending” MPLADS. This motion is set to last for two years, i.e., until 2022. The present pandemic circumstance of the coronavirus instigated the cabinet to resort to such a measure. This decision is perceived to infer and tackle the current exigency and also the challenges associated with it. Along with this motion, the Union Cabinet had also validated an ordinance to reduce the salaries of MPs by 30 percent for a year. The result and approval of these ordinances are directed to address the COVID 19 situation as a measure of providing financial assistance to the government.
Union Minister, Prakash Javadekar, has predicted that a net worth of Rs. 7,900 crore would go to the consolidated fund of India whereby offering our government with effective financial support. These funds will be administered to acquire equipment for hospitals, testing of civilians, and treating affected patients.
MPLADS scheme empowers executive powers to the legislature whereby violating the separation of powers being one of the cardinal basic structure doctrine of our constitution as laid down in the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case. The constitutionality of MPLADS was upheld in the Supreme Court in the case of Bhim Singh v. Union of India citing that this scheme falls within the ambit of “Public Purpose” and is to be classified under directive principles of state policy.
Report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reveals that the expenditure incurred through this scheme is less than the quoted amount. Implementation of developmental plans is time-consuming which puts a greater toll on the finance and due procedures are not followed which adds to the inefficiencies of this scheme. The report of CAG also suggested that the implementation witnessed numerous shortcomings and lapses which were indicative of a failure of internal control relating to non-maintenance of records.
Gaps and variations in utilization of the sanctioned funds were prominent in many constituencies. Adding to this contributed underutilization of funds at various levels of government. No actions have been taken by the government for these scams. There have been instances wherein huge sums were sanctioned beyond the permissible limit owing to the inefficient implementation of this scheme.
The object of this scheme proves to be beneficial whereas the inconsistency lies within its implementation. The government needs to enhance the implementation stage by issuing new guidelines. As funds channeling through this scheme is often found to be misutilised, there has to be a sense of responsibility and accountability on the part of the regulatory ministry. Since there are huge sums of funds allocated for this scheme, hence arises the misappropriations. Therefore, sanctioning funds limit must be revised to effectuate the proper implementation of MPLADS. With the absence of incompetence in the scheme, the main purpose of its implementation can reach the citizens without any hindrance.