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Are MP funds well-spent?

April 28, 2009 14:11 IST
On December 23, 1993, the Union government launched a scheme that allowed Members of Parliament to recommend developmental projects that would create durable community assets and infrastructure. This scheme was called the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme or MPLADS. By the end of March 2009, the government had already released an estimated Rs 19,426 crore under the scheme.

Each Member of Parliament now gets Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) a year to undertake such projects.  That was not the allocation amount when MPLADS started. An MP was given only Rs 5 lakh in the first year of the scheme. The following year, it was raised to Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million). This was doubled in 1998-99 and there has been no change in the allocation amount since then.

As the life of a new Lok Sabha is all set to begin next month, after the announcement of the general election results, it will be interesting to examine how well the funds under MPLADS have been used by the people's representatives. The pleasant surprise is that unlike most government schemes or projects, the rate of utilisation of funds allocated under MPLADS has been extremely good.

The overall funds utilisation level over the last 15 years is close to 93 per cent. Members of Parliament from only four states and a union territory used their funds at levels below 90 per cent - Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttaranchal and Lakshadweep.

There are about nine states and union territories whose MPs used 95-99 per cent of the funds allocated to them. MPs from Tamil Nadu top that list, followed by Mizoram, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chandigarh and Sikkim.

The point to be noted here is that MPs from smaller states and union territories have done very well in utilising the MPLADS funds. Tamil Nadu is perhaps the only exception. But to be fair to the MPs of the larger states, a utilisation level of 90-95 per cent is also no mean achievement in a country where funds often lapse because of non-utilisation by government agencies or ministries.

Have MPs in the Lok Sabha done better than those in the Rajya Sabha? Yes, they have, by utilising as much as 95 per cent of Rs 13,637 crore (Rs 136.37 billion) allocated to them in this period. In contrast, Rajya Sabha MPs utilised only 88 per cent of the Rs 5,789 crore (Rs 57.89 billion) allocated to them.

The relatively low utilisation for Rajya Sabha MPs took place in spite of the relaxation that they could recommend works in one or more districts in the state from where they have been elected, unlike Lok Sabha MPs who can identify development projects only in their constituencies. 

Data collected and compiled by the district authorities on the utilisation of MPLADS funds reveal an interesting trend. Of the Rs 19,426 crore (Rs 194.26 billion) allocated, data on how Rs 7,000 crore (Rs 70 billion) have been spent is available with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation which monitors the scheme.

This shows that drinking water facilities, education, electricity facilities, non-conventional energy sources, health and family welfare, sanitation and public health, irrigation, roads and bridges, sports, animal care and other public facilities are the major heads under which the MPLADS resources are used.

Education, roads and bridges, drinking water facilities and other public facilities account for more than half the amount that has been accounted for by the district authorities. Interestingly, MPs from West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are the most active if the number of projects coming from these areas is any indication.

MPs from the north-eastern states fare quite poorly in comparison. Nagaland, for instance, has not got a single project in the last 15 years under MPLADS, according to data compiled by the district authorities.

There is no doubt that MPLADS has proved to be a major success if the level of funds utilisation is used as a yardstick. However, that alone should not be the criterion for judging the efficacy of a scheme.

The data available with the government should be used to determine if the funds released and used are indeed well-spent. Surely, there should be a mechanism in place to check if the MPs are actually creating durable community assets or using the funds only to further their electoral prospects?

A K Bhattacharya
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