It is time to scrap MPLADS

Hindustan Time, February 24, 2014

The end of a Parliament?s term is the right time to check how much the MPs have delivered during their five years in power. One of the key tests of their competence, or incompetence as the case may be, is how well/badly they have used the funds sanctioned under the MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).

The amount in question is not negligible: the scheme costs the exchequer a staggering Rs. 4,000 crore per annum at the rate of Rs. 5 crore per MP every year. Internal audits done by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation since 2008, the nodal ministry for the scheme, show that the majority of MPs have failed this test. As far as the 15th Lok Sabha goes, audits show that no MP has been able to utilise the funds allocated for infrastructural development in his/her respective constituency.

According to a national daily, which accessed some of the reports using the Right to Information law, auditors studied 308 districts, taking around 50 sample projects in each, and found MPs, district authorities and implementation authorities violating the guidelines. The reports also found that some MPs have even created their own assets with public money whereas the guidelines are strict on what they can spend on: drinking water, education, electricity, non-conventional energy sources, health and family welfare, sanitation, irrigation, roads and sports and disaster relief, among others. The CAG too has audited the scheme thrice in the past 18 years and had recommended a mechanism to monitor the projects.

Though the Supreme Court has declared the scheme constitutionally valid, such report cards have led to a demand for either scrapping or reinventing the scheme. Recently, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi supported the call for doing away with the MPLAD scheme saying 50% MPs don?t want it anymore. A month ago, minister of state Milind Deora had written a letter to the prime minister seeking changes in the provisions of the MPLAD scheme or replacing it with a new programme if its provisions cannot be changed. In other democracies, representatives don?t have such funds at their disposal to spend on their constituents.

The results of audits show 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. Or at least, the government must allow social audits of the projects cleared under the scheme as a means of keeping to keep an eye on our cavalier MPs.

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