New Delhi: The rampant misuse of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), a scheme which puts public funds in the hands of parliamentarians to fund community projects, forms the focus of a new book.
"I now felt the need to examine the MPLAD scheme that was launched two decades back and 20 years is a good time to reflect on it," says author and columnist Surya Prakash, whose book was launched here late last evening.
The book titled "Public Money, Private Agenda: The Use and Abuse of MPLADS" (Rupa) was launched in presence of senior parliamentarians like Shivraj Patil, Kishore Chandra Deo and Purno A Sangma.
"Money meant for public needs should not be put into private trusts, colleges, hospitals and land of the MLAs and MPs. I think as responsible citizens we should question it," he said.
The MPLAD scheme, which began in the year 1993 with an allocation of Rs 1 crore per annum per MP has a current corpus of Rs 5 crore.
"India has 4807 MPs and MLAs. Thanks to the scheme, they have around 12000 crore at their disposal. On an average, an MP or MLA spends 5 crore annually, meant for public spending, to run their own engineering colleges and hospitals," Prakash said referring to the rampant corruption in the scheme.
Prakash, has previously written extensively on the Indian Parliament and has been vocal about the various loopholes in the way the Parliament functions.
The author emphasises on the duty of a responsible citizen to demand transparency and accountability from political representatives.
Shivraj Patil, the Guest of Honor at the occasion congratulated the author for "the sheer research and efforts" put by him for the book and recalled Prakash`s instrumental role in convincing opponents in the Parliament about the importance of Standing Committees.
"I still remember that article Surya Prakash wrote on why we need Standing Committees in Parliament. The people whom I had a tough time convincing about the worth of such bodies, readily agreed after reading that article," Patil said.
Talking about the book, former speaker of Lok Sabha, P Sangma said, "This is the first comprehensive, independent and decisive analysis of MPLAD scheme. I hope it will generate more debate".
While the book speaks about trends in the implementation of the MPLADS scheme, the author dismisses the notion that the scheme is "completely a bad idea."
He points out that the scheme can work if implemented well and also mentioned that many African nations had adopted the scheme after its launch in India.
"Two years after the launch of MPLAD in India, Zambia adopted it. In 2003, Kenya went ahead and embraced it and similarly the scheme is working wonders in Uganda, Sudan and Jamaica. It is a favourite scheme among parliamentarians there," Prakash said.
The author also credited Arun Shourie, former editor of the Indian Express to have encouraged him to write about the Indian Parliament.
"I call him a journalism blessing and a great source of inspiration" he said.