Give MPs money

They will bankrupt development

 
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- IN 1993, India's members of Parliament (MPs) decided they weren't doing enough for the constituencies that had sent them to the country's seat of legislative power. Speedily, the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) was hatched: each MP began to receive Rs 2 crore annually to spend on development works. Since then -- as various assessments, including the government's own, have found out -- close to Rs 10,000 crore has been spent, but there hasn't been much local area development.

Instead, MPLADS has become a patronage programme: MPs use the money -- if at all -- to maintain vote banks. There's an element of inevitability about this transformation, for what else are our MPs good at? This narrow electoral imperative out-rides all considerations, and has led to lopsided growth, often conflicts, within and between constituencies.

More crucially, MPLADS has emerged as a solid obstacle to local governance. Panchayati raj institutions have been especially affected: in comes the MP, selectively throws about money re-routed to him/her from the rural development kitty, and short-circuits programmes -- such as poverty alleviation -- local bodies are supposed to implement. An MP is the arbitrator of MPLADS; the district collector is the nodal authority to implement it: between politician and bureaucrat, opens a gap that swallows local autonomy whole. Provision exists for local bodies to implement MPLADS, but which MP prefers gram sabha s to contractors?

Opposition to MPLADS is growing, at both the lowest and highest tiers of government. About time, for some states have gone ahead and created a similar programme for those elected to state legislative assemblies -- the dole at this level ranges from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 50 lakh -- quickly replicating a wasteful idea that fully caters to political want. A situation has arisen when various tiers of government are beginning to work at cross-purposes.

Is there a way to avoid this political lard? Only one. MPLADS should be disbanded, and quickly. For -- farce, confusion and above reasons apart -- when legislators begin to humungously grow an extra arm that begins to wield executive powers, it is democracy that gets strangled.

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