Dump it


T

he Central government’s move to increase the allocation under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore is unwise, against public interest and contrary to the general opinion in the country. Few people other than MPs support the scheme. Even among the MPs there are many who want it to be scrapped. Opposition leader L K Advani has disfavoured any increase in the allocation under the scheme. And still if the government wants to increase the allocation it should be only because it wants to please MPs who will gain from the corruption and irregularities which the scheme has been identified with. Even the Lok Sabha has taken action against some members for demanding bribes for selection of projects under the scheme. It was started by the minority government of Narasimha Rao in 1993 to buy the loyalty of MPs. The present government is politically secure and does not have to appease MPs with wrong handouts.

The National Commission to Review the Constitution and the Administrative Reforms Commission under Veerappa Moily, who is now the Union law minister, have disapproved of the scheme. The Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor-General have criticised it. The constitutional validity of the scheme is in doubt. The Supreme Court is to soon take a decision on it. But the government seems to be in a hurry to beat the judgment. The scheme apparently violates the idea of separation of powers between the legislature and the executive. The function of the legislature is to frame laws and not to execute projects. The scheme is also contrary to the federal spirit of governance and takes away from the powers of local self-government bodies. If it is conceived wrongly, the often corrupt implementation has made it worse. The guidelines for implementation are inadequate and they are not followed correctly either.

The members of state legislatures will also demand a corresponding increase in their allocations if the entitlements of MPs are increased. At present the scheme involves an annual expenditure of about Rs 6,000 crore from the exchequer. It will cross Rs 15,000 crore if the allocations are raised as proposed. It is wrong to give away so much of public funds to anybody without control over its use and without accountability. Instead of adding to the perks of legislators through the backdoor, which the scheme actually is, the government should abolish it.

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