Should MPs have the job of developing their local area?

Since 1993, Members of Parliament have been given a certain amount of money they can use to recommend works of a developmental nature in their constituency.  The scheme is known as the MP Local Area Development Scheme, or MPLADS. This scheme has become the subject matter of a crucial debate recently.

Initially, all MPs were given 50 lakhs per year.  Since 1998-99 this amount has been extended to Rs. 2 crores.  The main features of this scheme are:

a.  Works, based on locally felt needs are eligible under the scheme, and the role of the MP is recommendatory.

b.   Ideally, Urban Local Bodies (e.g. MCD in Delhi, BMC in Mumbai, KMC in Kolkata) and Panchayats (in rural areas) are expected to carry out the works recommended.

c.  The work should normally be completed in one year.

d.  Such work can also be entrusted to registered trusts and societies if certain conditions are met.

In short, MPs get a sum of Rs. 2 crores every year, in addition to the funds allocated by the government to local departments and municipal bodies, and using such funds, the MPs can recommend developmental activity.  It is seemingly a beneficial scheme.  However, the most important issue arising out of this scheme is:  Is a Member of Parliament even supposed to undertake developmental activities in his constituency? There is also a PIL pending in the Supreme Court on this matter.

MPs are elected to represent the people in Parliament, and debate national issues.  They are expected to frame national policies, and in doing so, represent the views of the people who elected him or her.

The role of developing the local area is of the state government, and therefore, of the MLA.  It is MLAs who represent the people in the state government which actually looks after the development of the state.  It is the state governments who are responsible for planning cities and towns, and for roads and bridges.  They are supposed to ensure proper supply of electricity and water, and so on.

Recently, there has been a growing clamour to increase the amount given under MPLADS from Rs. 2 crore to Rs. 5 crore.  A recent op-ed in the Indian Express also points out that “it has also been rightfully argued that local bodies are in any case better placed to undertake such capital expenditure”.

Interestingly, while the clamour for increasing the money allocated has grown after the 2009 elections, one of the reports of the Administrative Reforms Commission under the current Law Minister Mr. Moily had recommended that MPLADS be scrapped.  In 2005, Mr. Somnath Chatterjee had also stated that:

“The scheme should be scrapped. Note that this scheme was launched immediately after passing the Constitution 73rd Amendment. The game clearly was to sabotage the emergence of panchayats, which were autonomous of the weight-throwing MPs and MLAs.”

Very clearly, it is very controversial whether giving money to MPs which they can throw at their constituents (and occasionally inaugurate roads and bridges built from such funds) actually aids development.  it is more plausible that MPs throw their weight around in front of local authorities, and ensure schemes under MPLADS are given greater priority than government-sponsored schemes for development.

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