From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : MPLADS and its provision.
Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with MPLADS.
Since its inception in 1993, MPLADS has continued uninterrupted for 27 years. But COVID-19 came as a roadblock for MPLADS. Recently, it was suspended by the government for two years. As expected it led to huge political drama. However, as an aspirant, it is our duty to cut the drama out and focus on issues that matter. This article discusses MPLADS and argues for its abolition owing to various issues associated with it.
Reason for suspension of MPLADS
- The government suspended the scheme to strengthen the government’s efforts in managing the challenges and adverse impact of COVID-19 in the country.
- It has been suspended for two years.
- BTW scheme in short: Each MP has the choice to suggest to the District Collector for works to the tune of ₹5 crores per annum to be taken up in his/her constituency.
Why should MPLADS be abolished?
1. It goes against the spirit of the Constitution
- The scheme violates one of the cardinal principles: separation of powers.
- Simply put, this scheme, in effect, gives an executive function to legislators or the legislature.
- The argument that MPs only recommend projects, but the final choice and implementation rest with the district authorities is unfounded.
- There are hardly any authorities in the district who have the courage to defy the wishes of an MP.
2. Lacunae in implementation
- Consider some of the observations made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India:
- Expenditure incurred by the executing agencies being less than the amount booked.
- Utilisation of funds between 49 to 90% of the booked amount.
- The scheme envisages that works under the scheme should be limited to asset creation, but 78% of the works recommended were for improvement of existing assets.
- Wide variations in quantities executed against the quantities specified in the BOQ (Bills of Quantity) in 137 of the 707 works test-checked. Variations ranged from 16 to 2312%.
- Use of lesser quantities of material than specified by contractors resulting in excess payments and sub-standard works.
- Delays in issuing work orders ranging from 5 to 387 days in 57% of the works against the requirement of issuing the work order within 45 days.
- Extensions of time granted to contractors without following the correct procedure.
- Register of assets created, as required under the scheme, not maintained, therefore location and existence of assets could not be verified.
3. Wide variation in utilisation of MPLADS funds
- A report published in IndiaSpend has some very interesting insights based on data made available to it by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
- A year after they took office, 298 of 543 members of the 16th Lok Sabha— have not spent a rupee from the ₹5 crore.
- Though ₹1,757 crore had been released for MPLADs, only ₹281 crore had been utilised by all the 543 MPs till May 15, 2015.
- This means only 16% of the money had been spent in one year by all the MPs put together, because the Lok Sabha was constituted in May 2014.
- Since the MPLADS began in 1993, ₹5,000 crore was lying unspent with various district authorities by May 15, 2015.
- It is clear from the details above, as well as later experience, that most MPs use money under MPLADS quite haphazardly, and a significant portion of it is left unspent.
4. Misuse of the money under MPLADS
- There is widespread talk of money under MPLADS being used to appease or oblige two sets of people: opinion-makers or opinion-influencers, and favourite contractors.
- There have been cases of the contractor and the MP being financially linked with each other.
5. Legality issue
- The constitutional validity of MPLADS was challenged in the Supreme Court of India in 1999, followed by petitions in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005.
- The combined judgment for all these petitions was delivered on May 6, 2010, with the scheme being held to be constitutional.
- The SC seems to have placed an unquestioned trust in the efficacy of the scheme of implementation of MPLADS drawn up by the government without an assessment of the situation prevalent in the field.
- The court should pay more attention to its skewed implementation, evidence of which is available in audit reports.
Contrast and compare the provision of MPLADS with the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. A direct question on the MPLADS could be asked by the UPSC, for instance, consider this question-“There has been the debate around the MPLADS. Discuss the issues involved in the MPLADS.”
Reports of underutilisation and misutilisation of MPLADS funds continue to surface at regular intervals but there seems to have been no serious attempt to do anything about it till now. Some concrete decisions on the future of the scheme is now inevitable.
Back2Basics: What is MPLADS?
- MPLAD is a central government scheme, under which MPs can recommend development programmes involving the spending of Rs 5 crore every year in their respective constituencies.
- MPs from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, including nominated ones, can do so.
- MPs do not receive any money under these schemes.
- The government transfers it directly to the respective local authorities.
- The legislators can only recommend works in their constituencies based on a set of guidelines.
- For the MPLAD Scheme, the guidelines focus on the creation of durable community assets like roads, school buildings etc.
- Recommendations for non-durable assets can be made only under limited circumstances.
For example, last month, the government allowed the use of MPLAD funds for the purchase of personal protection equipment, coronavirus testing kits etc.