Scrap MPLADS scheme

The Central Information Commission’s (CIC) proposal for creation of a legal framework for the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) is another sign of disapproval of the working of the scheme by a credible authority. The CIC has told the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Rajya Sabha Chairman to come up with a framework that will ensure transparency in the scheme and hold MPs accountable for their obligations under it. These two most important requirements of public spending are lacking in the scheme. The CIC is not the first to point this out. In the past 25 years of the existence of the scheme, various bodies and institutions like the Administrative Reforms Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have criticised it. The Supreme Court upheld its legal validity, but it did so on unconvincing grounds. It said MPs only have a recommendatory role in the scheme, which may be true on paper but is not so in practice. 

The scheme was launched by the minority government of PV Narasimha Rao in 1993 to give an incentive to MPs to continue to support the government. It placed public funds at the disposal MPs to be used for projects of their liking in their constituencies. The allocation has gone up from Rs 1 crore a year in 1993 to Rs 5 crore now, on demand from MPs. States have also started the scheme for MLAs and MLCs. Governments have thus given away thousands of crores of public money to legislators to be spent on projects selected on political or personal considerations. A part of the allocation goes unspent, and much of the money that is spent is misspent. The figures put out by the Ministry of Programme Implementation, which handles the scheme, have year after year revealed the problems in its implementation. 

The scheme is conceptually unsound, with legislators being given an executive function and privilege. The Supreme Court failed to fully appreciate this. The norms of public expenditure are not followed and there is no proper scrutiny of the spending. Projects are often chosen arbitrarily, funds are diverted and corruption is common. Funds are sometimes used for private schemes or diverted to trusts controlled by MPs. The guidelines for implementation have been revised a number of times, as a result of criticism made by bodies like the CAG, to improve the working of the scheme. But they have not yielded any result. The proposal to create a legal framework and to make MPs answerable under the RTI law for MPLADS is also bound to fail, as in the past. The best option is to scrap the scheme altogether. 

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Scrap MPLADS scheme

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