Pankaj Sharma & Rashi Aditi Ghosh/ ZRG
The government is not happy with the performance of the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) scheme and has set in motion a process to get the scheme evaluated independently.
The move comes amidst a strong demand including from former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to totally scrap the scheme. The ambitious scheme empowering Parliamentarians to undertake welfare projects has drawn all-round flak for tardy implementation as also for all-round hike in outlays.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation recently floated a tender to hire an external agency to monitor the MPLAD scheme across the country. The monitoring would cover 50 districts in each zone covering 200 districts in all. The details of the response to the tender are awaited. The agency’s mandate includes pinpointing shortcomings observed in the implementation of the scheme as also recommending implementation procedure, record maintenance and review mechanism for each selected district in the report.
The latest MPLAD annual report revealed that only 70 per cent of the funds allocated were actually utilized during 2009-10. The report evaluated performance of each Parliamentarian on allocation versus expenditure parameters leading to completion or delay in projects.
A recent Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report presented in Parliament recently noted that during 2004-05 to 2008-09 only 50 per cent of the funds were utilized under MPLAD.
This, however, is not the first time that the government has sought to put the MPLAD scheme back on course. It had earlier hired an agency but was not satisfied with the outcome.
The ministry’s main objective in scrutinizing the scheme is to increase the utilization of funds allocated. Under the MPLAD scheme the budget each MP gets was increased recently from Rs 2 to 5 crores recently.
The latest ministry move, however, has failed to impress the critics of the scheme. Somnath Chatterjee said, “From the time I was a Member of Parliament I have always been opposing MPLADs as it is morally wrong for me.” He said the scheme had inbuilt deficiencies that needed to be corrected.
Chatterjee recommended that members should pool in their ideas and proposals about development projects to the district planning committee and the government should directly fund the selected proposals.
The MPLAD scheme format has other critics as well, though they do not support its scrapping. Senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh said, “Every MP should completely use the fund given to them under MPLAD scheme. If that does not happen there is an issue.” He, however, said under the scheme the common man had benefited as well.
Echoing Chatterjee’s voice, Professor Pushpesh K Pant at JNU said, “I have absolutely no hesitation in stating that this ill-conceived scheme should be scrapped. In my view the MPLAD scheme is a fraud on the Indian people.”