In line of fire

Legislators' prize scheme

Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004

a recent move of the Supreme Court (sc) might spell trouble for the controversial Member of Parliament Local Areas Development Scheme (mplads). On July 27, 2004, the sc referred three public interest litigations (pil) against mplads to a constitution bench. The bench would determine the constitutional validity of the scheme since it gives executive responsibility to mps, who have a legislative role to play as per the law. It is for the first time that the sc acted on a petition against the scheme, launched in 1993 to enable mps undertake developmental works in their constituencies. Initially, they got Rs 50 lakh annually for the purpose but now the amount has been raised to Rs 2 crore.

"By making the legislator a partner in the functioning of the executive, the mplads erodes the check that the legislator is supposed to exercise over the executive," says S D Sharma, working chairperson of Lok Sevak Sangh (lss), a Delhi-based citizens watchdog, which is one of the appellants. International corruption watchdog Transparency International, India, is also a petitioner in the lss petition, filed on June 30, 2003. The other two pils were filed by Bhim Singh of Panthers Party, Jammu and Kashmir, and Common Cause, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation. Sharma reveals that once the sc verdict on mplads is out, pils would be filed in state high courts against similar schemes for members of legislative assembly (mlas) (see table: Wrong trend). Such schemes have also been started for Councillors in some states.

MPLADS-triggered fund for MLAs
State Number
of MLAs
per MLA*
Delhi 70 200
Jharkhand 81 200
Punjab 117 125
Uttar Pradesh 403 100
Uttaranchal 70 100
Tamil Nadu 234 82
Maharashtra 288 80
Rajasthan 200 60
Orissa 147 50
Kerala 140 50
Madhya Pradesh 230 40
Karnataka 224 40
West Bengal 294 25
Himachal Pradesh 68 24
Tripura 60 5
Chhatisgarh 90 As per requirement
*Annual figures — Rs in lakh
source: Complied from information given by the Union ministry of statistics and programme implementation
Allegations of corruption, favoritism and under-utilisation of funds have been leveled against mplads since its inception. All official investigations have confirmed these. Experts also say mplads violates the autonomy of panchayati raj institutions (pris). The Union ministry of statistics and programme implementation, the administering authority for mplads, has, in fact, admitted that it is not able to monitor the scheme effectively. "All the 29 subjects listed in the 11th schedule of the Constitution, meant for pris, also fall under the mplads," points out K C Sivramakrisnan, visiting faculty at Centre for Policy Research, a research organisation in New Delhi. But while assets are created under mplads, the burden of their maintenance falls on the cash-starved local bodies.

Legislators themselves are not unanimous in their opinion about mplads. While Sandip Dixit, mp, East Delhi, believes he needs such schemes, especially for re-election, veteran Congress leader, Digvijay Singh, says mplads is misused and doesn't fit into the roles of a legislative member.

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