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General Studies 2 >> Polity

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1. Context

Earlier this month in 2023, the government suspended the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme so that these funds would be available for its COVID-19 management efforts. Following the Centre’s announcement, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath suspended the state’s MLALAD scheme for a year, a move that will allow the state to spend Rs 1,500 crore on COVID-related efforts.

2. What is the MPLAD Scheme?

  • The MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme is a constituency development scheme formulated by the Indian Government on 23 December 1993.
  • It enables the members of Parliament (MPs) to recommend developmental work in their constituencies with importance accorded to creating durable community assets, based on needs locally felt by the community. The spending limit is ₹ 5 crores per year.
  • States have their version of this scheme with varying amounts per MLA.
  • Delhi has the highest allocation under MLALAD; each MLA can recommend works for up to Rs 10 crore each year.
  • In Punjab and Kerela, the amount is Rs 5 crore per MLA per year: in Assam, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, it is Rs. 2 crores; in Uttar Pradesh, it was recently increased from Rs 2 Crore to Rs 3 Crore.

3. Implementation of the MPLADS Scheme

  • MPLADS was announced in December 1993, by the late Prime Minister Shri. P.V Narasimha Rao.
  • Although its announcement received criticism initially, MPLADS has continued to date, with successive governments supporting the scheme by allocating budgetary funds.
  •  Funds Allocation for each MP was ₹ 5 lakhs in 1993-94; it increased to ₹ 2 crores in 1998-99. This was further revised to ₹ 5 Crores in 2011-12.
  • MPLADS is administered by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI). MoSPI publishes an annual report on the MPLADS program operations, which provides information on the extent of work or the number of work completed for each Lok Sabha member (MP). The report helps assess how the MP has utilized their MPLADS funds, and the cumulative work undertaken under the scheme.
  •  At the height of the Covid pandemic, the central government suspended MPLADS to help mobilize money for priority sectors like vaccine development and health infrastructure.

4. How does the scheme work?

  • MPs and MLAs 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.
  • The guidelines for use of MLALAD funds differ across states. For example, Delhi MLAs can recommend the operation of fogging machines (to contain dengue mosquitoes), installation of CCTV cameras, etc.
  • After the legislators give the list of developmental works, they are executed by the district authorities as per the government's financial, technical, and administrative rules.

5. How long are the schemes supposed to continue?

  • The central scheme has continued uninterrupted for 27 years.
  • It is budgeted through the government’s finances and continues as long as the government is agreeable.
  • In 2018, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the scheme until the term of the 14th Finance Commission, which is March 31, 2020.
  • In the recent past, there has been one example of the discontinuation of a Local Area Development scheme.
  • Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar discontinued the state’s scheme in 2010, only to revive it before the 2014 general elections.

6. Impact of the MPLAD Scheme

  • In 2018, when a continuation of the scheme was approved, the government noted that “the entire population across the country stands to benefit through the creation of durable assets of locally felt needs, namely drinking water, education, public health, sanitation, and roads, etc, under MPLAD Scheme”.
  • Until 2017, nearly 19 lakh projects worth Rs 45,000 crore had been sanctioned under the MPLAD Scheme.
  • Third-party evaluators appointed by the government reported that the creation of good-quality assets had a “positive impact on the local economy, social fabric, and feasible environment”.
  • Further, 82% of the projects have been in rural areas, and the remaining is in urban/semi-urban areas. 

7. Challenges with MPLADS

  • Inadequate citizen participation: MPLADS was envisaged to have the character of decentralized development based on the principle of participatory development. However, citizen participation has remained lukewarm. There is no information on how locally felt needs are given primacy.
  • Insufficient monitoring of sanctioned works: Guidelines stipulate that district authorities should monitor the sanctioned works. However, there is no indicator for monitoring. Annual reports do not throw light on monitoring. There is no indication of monitoring of asset condition after the completion of works.
  • Tendency to use MPLADS to gain political mileage: Research data indicate that MPs tend to go slow in the 1st half of their term. A majority of the MPLADS funds were spent during the last year of their term, just before elections, to gain political mileage.

8. Criticism

  • The criticism has been on two broad grounds.
  • First, it is inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution as it co-opts legislators into executive functioning.
  • The most vocal critic was a DMK ex-MP and a former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Era Sezhiyan. He said the workload on MPs created by the scheme diverted their attention from holding the government accountable and other legislative work.
  • The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2000) and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, headed by Veerappa Moily (2007), recommended the discontinuation of the scheme.
  • In 2010, the Supreme Court held that the scheme was constitutional.
  • The second criticism stems from allegations of corruption associated with the allocation of works. The Comptroller and Auditor General have on many occasions highlighted gaps in implementation. 

Previous year Question

With reference to the funds under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), which of the following statements is correct? (UPSC 2020)
1. MPLADS funds must be used to create durable assets like physical infrastructure for health, education, etc.
2. A specified portion of each MP's fund must benefit SC/ST populations.
3. MPLADS funds are sanctioned on yearly basis and the unused funds cannot be carried forward to the next year.
4. The district authority must inspect at least 10% of all works under implementation every year.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
A.  1 and 2 only
B. 3 and 4 only
C. 1, 2, and 3 only
D. 1, 2, and 4 only
Answer: D

For Prelims & Mains

For Prelims: Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme, COVID-19,  Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, 14th Finance Commission, Local Area Development Scheme, National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2000) and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2005).
For Mains: 1. Critically examine whether MPLADS has helped in bridging the gaps in the provisioning of public services.
Source: The Indian Express

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