7 PM Editorial |For the better use of MPLADS funds amidst the Covid19 pandemic| 9th April 2020

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For the better use of MPLADS funds amidst the Covid19 pandemic

Context: MPLADs Funds.

The Union Cabinet has passed an ordinance that suspends the MPLADs (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funds for two years. The MPLADs fund has been suspended till 2022.

This brings us to the questions of the MPLADs fund. In this article, we will explain them below:

  • What is Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADs)?
  • What are the features of the scheme?
  • What were the new guidelines made in MPLADs fund?
  • What changes the government made in MPLADs scheme amid COVID-19 pandemic (April, 8th 2020)?
  • What are the various recommendations made regarding MPLADs?
  • Conclusion

What is Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADs)?

  • It was announced in December 1993 and initially came under the control of the Ministry of Rural Development. Later, in October 1994, it was transferred to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • The 1st Guidelines were issued in February 1994, covering the concept, implementation and monitoring of the Scheme.
  • It is a Central Sector Scheme. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is ₹5 crore.
  • The objective of the scheme is to enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets based on the locally felt needs to be taken up in their Constituencies. Right from inception of the Scheme, durable assets of national priorities viz. drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads, etc. are being created.
  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has been responsible for the policy formulation, release of funds and prescribing monitoring mechanism for implementation of the Scheme.

What are the features of the scheme?

  • The MPLADS is a Plan Scheme fully funded by Government of India. The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
  • Under the scheme, each MP has the choice to suggest to the District Collector for works to the tune of Rs.5 Crores per annum to be taken up in his/her constituency.
  • The Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament can recommend works in one or more districts in the State from where he/she has been elected.
  • The Nominated Members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select any one or more Districts from any one State in the Country for implementation of their choice of work under the scheme.
  • Development of Areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe: There is a greater need to develop areas inhabited by Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in order to give special attention for the infrastructure development of such areas. M.Ps are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15 per cent of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by S.T. population
  • Natural & Man-made Calamities: MPLADS works can also be implemented in the areas prone to or affected by the calamities like floods, cyclone, Tsunami, earthquake, hailstorm, avalanche, cloud burst, pest attack, landslides, tornado, drought, fire, chemical, biological and radiological hazards.
  • Release of Funds:
    • Funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities.
    • The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable.
    • The liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.
  • Execution of works: The MPs have a recommendatory role under the scheme. They recommend their choice of works to the concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government. The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.

What were the new guidelines made in MPLADs fund?

As per the amendments to MPLADS guidelines (March 24th, 2020), MPs can now utilise funds under MPLADS for the following:

  • Infra-Red thermometers (Non-contact) to enable doctors and medical personnel to record and track a person’s temperature.
  • Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) Kits to keep the medical personnel well-protected and enable them to function efficiently by minimising the risk of transmission.
  • Thermal imaging scanners or cameras for railway stations, airports and other points of entry which allow detecting of temperature from a safe distance.
  • CORONA testing kits approved by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • ICU Ventilator and Isolation/ Quarantine Wards within their approved facilities.
  • Face masks, gloves and sanitisers for medical personnel.
  • Any other medical equipment recommended by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19. 

What changes the government made in MPLADs scheme amid COVID-19 pandemic (April 8th, 2020)?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a 30% cut in the salaries of all Members of Parliament and a two-year suspension of the MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) scheme so that the amount saved can go to the Consolidated Fund of India to fight COVID-19.
  • In this regard, it approved an ordinance to amend the Salaries, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, to cut the salaries of MPs by 30%.
  • Now, the consolidated amount of MPLAD Funds for 2 years Rs 7,900 crores will go to Consolidated Fund of India.
  • The move is seen as a part of the government’s efforts to address the challenges in the fight against COVID-19. The fund will be used for the purchase of equipments for government hospitals and dispensaries, medical testing and screening of patients and also setting up other related facilities.

What are the various recommendations made regarding MPLADs?

  • Supreme Court:
    • The Supreme Court, while declining to strike down the scheme, called for a robust accountability regime.
    • The SC said, “The court can strike down a law or scheme only on the basis of its vires or unconstitutionality but not on the basis of its viability. When a regime of accountability is available in the scheme, it is not proper for the court to strike it down, unless it violates any constitutional principle.”
  • CAG: The CAG has flagged instances of financial mismanagement and inflation of amounts spent. The important recommendations made in 2011 are:
    • The details of all works executed or in progress should be uploaded after proper data validation. The data uploaded should be periodically reconciled with the works completion reports received from the DAs.
    • The ministry should establish a reliable system of data capture of releases, actual expenditure, unspent balances, works sanctioned, works completed etc and its consolidation at different levels.
    • The ministry may strengthen its internal controls as well as monitoring mechanism and establish a system responsive to the known shortcomings.
    • The DAs should regularly inspect MPLADS works under progress along with the MP concerned and maintain an inspection register to record the findings. All works with an estimated cost of Rs 5 lakh and above should be inspected by the DA.
    • A robust and regular internal audit system should be immediately put in place both at ministry and at the state level.

Conclusion:

Since the entire exercise is about ensuring that Indians survive, the development aspect of the MPLADS can be given a holiday for two years. After all, people need to be alive and healthy to enjoy whatever facility is being provided. Therefore, a strong message can be sent to the nation by foregoing this amount.

In fact, this should be the initial step and going forward, one can think of several other costs being done away with, for example travel for MPs (today everyone is managing via the Cloud and even meetings with other country heads can be conducted on the web), entertainment, allowances for services, security (the culture of 10 cars accompanying a secretary or MP to the airport) etc.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/for-better-use-the-hindu-editorial-on-mplads-funds/article31293067.ece

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