It is sad that lawmakers of the nation did not make law for their own MPLADS” – M Sridhar Acharyalu (Central Information Commissioner)

The Members of Parliament and Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme which is fully funded by the Government of India was launched on 23rd December 1993 by former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao. The purpose of MPLADS is to provide a mechanism for the MP’s, that helps them to recommend works of developmental nature, for the creation of durable community assets, which also leads to the provision of basic facilities like community infrastructure, which is based on locally felt needs. However, expenditure on specified items of non-durable nature is also permitted as listed in the guidelines. The Annual MPLADS funds entitlement is ₹5 crores per MP constituency. The funds are released in two installments of ₹2.5 crores each. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation is vested with the task of policy formulation, release of funds, and prescribing monitoring mechanism for implementation of the scheme.

Work recommendations can be made by Lok Sabha members for their constituencies from which they have been elected, while Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State of Election (with select exceptions). Work recommendations can be made by Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha anywhere in the country.

The process of Implementation of MPLADS is a complicated one, it begins when an MP recommends his choice of Nodal District to the MoSPI in a prescribed format with a copy of the same to the State Government and the District Magistrate of the chosen District.

The annual entitlement of Rs 5 crore is released by the Government of India in two equal installments each of Rs 2.5 crores directly to the District Authority of the Nodal District of the concerned MP. The MP recommends the eligible work on his letterhead to the district authority which is signed by the MP himself. The District Authority then identifies and appoints the Implementing Agency for executing the recommended works. All recommended eligible works have to be sanctioned within 75 days from the date of receipt of the recommendation, while in case of any rejection of the works recommended by an MP, the District Authority has to inform the MP regarding the rejection within 45 days from the date of receipt of recommendations along with the reasons. After the work under the Scheme is completed, it is put to public use. A plaque carrying the inscription of ‘Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme Work’ is made indicating the cost involved, the commencement, completion, and inauguration date, and the name of the MP sponsoring the project for public awareness.

MPLADS has been applauded by many researchers and politicians for its excellent outcomes. At the National level for the year 2009-10, the full allocation of Rs. 1531.50 crore was released, out of which the incurred expenditure was Rs. 1073.98 crores. The percentage utilization over the release was 70.13. While the number of recommended works was 53891, the number of works sanctioned was 42582. Further, a total of 48345 works were completed during the year. The percentage of works completed to works sanctioned was 113.53.

Until 2017, nearly 19 lakh projects worth Rs 45,000 crore had been sanctioned under the MPLAD Scheme. Further, 82% of the projects have been in rural areas and the remaining in urban/semi-urban areas. For the year 2016-17 to 2017-18, a total number of 74 works for Rs. 291.07 Lacs have been sanctioned, till September 2018 from the MPLADS fund.

Utilization Percentage Rate of Funds of MPLADs across India

The Indian states have been classified into High, Medium, and Low performing states based on their fund utilization percentage in the following manner:- 

● High-performing states with a utilization percentage of 80% and above comprise northern (Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh) and eastern (Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland) states. Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh also fall in this category.

● Medium performing category states with a utilization percentage between 60% and 80% comprise Assam, West Bengal, and a majority of western and southern states. 

● Low performing category with a utilization percentage of below 60% comprise of Haryana, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Goa, Manipur, Jharkhand, Tripura, and Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir have recorded the lowest fund utilization percentage of 54.61% compared to Uttarakhand which has the highest percentage of 117.38%.

Implementation status across India

Observing the States based on their percentage of works completed to works sanctioned, the following scenario emerges – 

Meghalaya tops the list with a work completion percentage of 198.2% in comparison to Manipur with a percentage of 15.89%. The high performing states (with a percentage of more than 150) comprise Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Delhi, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Sikkim. Majority of the western states along with a few states from the east (Nagaland, Odisha, and Assam) coupled with Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh fall in the medium category with 100-150 percentage. Others fall in the low performing category with a percentage below 100. The data reveal that Himachal Pradesh, which recorded a high fund utilization percentage of 100.37, has the third-lowest works completion percentage of 55.73. This makes Himachal Pradesh a case study to understand in detail the reasons responsible for the slow progress in the completion of infrastructure projects. 

While MPLADS has been appreciated for its commendable performance in some states and specific sectors, there has been low utilization of funds in some states and an expenditure bias towards a particular sector.

MPLADS has also been criticized since its inception for various reasons, like gaps in utilization, cases of misuse, absence of a proper mechanism to ensure constituent participation to determine locally felt needs, cases of corruption and misappropriation of funds, etc. 

Cases of corruption and misappropriation of funds have come up to public notice time and again. Private contractors which are not permitted are engaged to implement the works. Also, Expenditure has been incurred on works that are prohibited under the scheme. There are weaknesses in the process of sanction. The District Authorities try to execute works without receiving any recommendations from MPs. Further, the District Authorities fail to inspect the sanctioned works and send regular monitoring reports. 

A very controversial debate on MPLADS often arises which raises the charges against MPLADS for being anti-federal, and that the Scheme goes against the spirit of the 73rd and the 74th Amendment, so much so that in 2002 the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution recommended immediate discontinuation of the MPLADS on the basis that it was inconsistent with the spirit of federalism and separation of powers between the center and the state as MPs get an opportunity to recommend the works of their choice in their chosen Nodal District. Former MP, Era Sezhiyan in a book entitled ‘MPLADS – Concept, Confusion and Contradictions’  also opposed the scheme and recommended that it should be scrapped since it was contrary to the Constitutional provisions which called for separate roles of the Executive and the Legislature. However, in its 13th and 15th Report, the Committee on MPLADS stated that there was nothing wrong with the scheme except some procedural infirmities and recommended a change of nomenclature to the Scheme for Local Area Development. The debate continued with the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission’s report on “Ethics in Governance” which also opposed the scheme arguing that it eroded the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive. However, in response to a Writ Petition that challenged the constitutionality of the MPLADS as ultra vires of the Constitution of India, in May 2010, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that there was no violation of the concept of separation of powers because the role of an MP, in this case, is recommendatory and the actual work is carried out by the Panchayats and Municipalities which belong to the executive organ.

The Government of India recently suspended the MPLADS for two years so that its funds can be transferred to the Consolidated Fund of India and can be used for Coronavirus management efforts. However, the suspension of MPLADS for managing pandemic efforts is not fully justified on various grounds. The MPLADS connects the MPs to their constituency, develops a feeling of self-responsibility, and helps citizens. States are entitled to MPLADS funds and the decision to centralize these funds would weaken the efforts of state governments against COVID-19 since decentralized interventions can be a great measure to tackle the pandemic. Also, suspension of MPLADS funds leads to more centralization which goes against federalism and shall weaken the development at the state level by taking away the funds which could be used for unique requirements of an area. 

MPLADS is also criticized because of lack of adequate information available to MPs, absence of a proper mechanism to ensure constituents’ participation to determine locally felt needs, etc. Despite innumerable loopholes and criticisms of MPLADs, in 2018, when the 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.

There is also a need to work on the shortcomings of the scheme to achieve the actual goal of the MPLADS. Certain corrective measures should be taken for the better implementation of the MPLAD Scheme —

1. The District Authorities should regularly monitor. The practice of random inspections by the District Authority in Varanasi is a good example.

2. The local community should be involved by the implementing agencies in the voluntary supervision of works.

3. Arrangements should be made for the maintenance of assets produced.

4. Surveys should be conducted across the constituency by NGOs and local communities to assess the needs of the constituents.

5. An Impact Assessment Study should be conducted at the constituency level annually to assess the benefits of the works implemented in the community.

6. Funds can be made lapsable to tackle the issue of large unspent balances that have accumulated and risen over the years.

The Members of Parliament and Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme, if implemented in the real sense , is one of the most effective approach to represent the needs of the people from Local Area at the National Level, which helps the first tier political leaders of the Indian Government to stay connected with the citizens at grassroot level directly. This scheme is one of the most inclusive schemes which aims to create durable assets of developmental nature, keeping in mind the need of the people from local areas, leading to developmental activities at grassroot level, which makes the continuation of MPLADS essential for India.

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