Q) “The Union government has decided to suspend operation of MPLADS for the next two financial years to address the financial crisis arising due to Covid-19. Discuss the possible effects of this step.”
Issue in the news:
Local Area Development Scheme, also called ‘Sansad Nidhi Yojana’ has been suspended for two years (2020-2022) in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The funds under MPLADs will be directed to the Consolidated Fund of India. Sum of Rs. 79000 crores are expected to be garnered by suspending the Local Area Development Scheme.
The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) was launched in December, 1993, to provide a mechanism for the Members of Parliament to recommend works of developmental nature for creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities including community infrastructure, based on locally felt needs. The MPLADS is a Central Sector Scheme which is fully funded by the Government of India. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
Objective of MPLADS:
- To enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets based on the locally felt needs to be taken up in their Constituencies.
- Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their constituencies and elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State they are elected from.
- Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
- To create durable assets of national priorities viz. drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads, etc.
- Recommendation by the MPs should be done annually with works costing at least 15 percent of the MPLADS entitlement for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 percent for areas inhabited by the ST population.
Guidelines on MPLADS:
In June 2016, the government came up with MP Local Area Development Scheme Guidelines. A few important details from these guidelines are mentioned below:
The guidelines mentioned to use the MPLAD funds for the implementation of the following:
- Swachh Bharat Mission
- Accessible India Campaign
- Water Conservation using rainwater harvesting systems
- Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana
- MPLADS funds could be converged with MNREGS and Khelo India Schemes for the formation of durable assets
Benefits of suspension of MPLAD:
- The cancellation of MPLADS for two years, on the other hand, is a welcome move. In financial terms, there are savings of nearly Rs.4,000 crore per year.
- In the short run, during the times of COVID-19 pandemic, MPLADS funds could have been used for procurement of such supplies that will help in fighting against the disease.
- While this is not insignificant, the larger benefit is that this will help Members of Parliament focus on their roles as national legislators.
- As the financial audit of MPLADS is done by the CAG and further examined by the Public Accounts Committee consisting of Members of Parliament, it adds another layer of conflict.
- The NCRWC recommended immediate discontinuation of the MPLAD scheme on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the spirit of federalism and distribution of powers between the centre and the state.
- The 2nd ARC report on Ethics in Governance took a firm stand against the scheme arguing that it seriously erodes the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive.
Possible effects of the suspension of MPLADS:
- Will adversely impact grass-root level work: MPLADS is meant to execute development work in the constituency, suspending it is a huge disservice to the constituents and will undermine the role and functions of MP.
- Impact efforts at state and local level: As there is enough evidence that covid-19 is best fought at the state and local level, the step will take away expenditure to meet unique requirements of an area.
- Against federalism: As the decision is taken unilaterally by the central government without considering the development needs of the States facing covid-19 outbreak.
- Contrary to popular perception, MPLAD funds cannot be spent at the discretion of an MP in any manner he/she wants. There is a set of guidelines mandating the utilization of the funds. These diktats are updated regularly and are available on the website of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
MPLADS is a very nimble and effective scalpel of targeted micro-level intervention. In the months and days ahead, when distress — medical and economic — will haunt the countryside, these discretionary interventions will help save lives. Despite above concerns, the decision will showcase a right signal and gesture of accountability as the government is readying to announce a second round of financial stimulus to deal with the covid-19 pandemic.