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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Delhi govt under cash strain, MLA funds suspended since April

The Centre had also announced the suspension of MPLAD funds in April for two years, saying the amount earmarked under the scheme, Rs 7,900 crore, will go to the Consolidated Fund of India. However, no such announcement was made in Delhi regarding MLALAD funds.

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi | Updated: September 20, 2020 8:56:17 am
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Reeling under a financial crunch due to the pandemic, the Delhi government has kept the Rs 700 crore MLA Local Area Development (MLALAD) fund in the city suspended for over six months, leading to demands from opposition legislators for an official statement on the matter.

Under the MLALAD funds, which come under the Urban Development department, legislators representing Delhi’s 70 assembly constituencies are entitled to Rs 10 crore each in a financial year to carry out development work in their areas.

The Centre had also announced the suspension of MPLAD funds in April for two years, saying the amount earmarked under the scheme, Rs 7,900 crore, will go to the Consolidated Fund of India. However, no such announcement was made in Delhi regarding MLALAD funds.

The first official statement on this matter came during the day-long assembly session held last Monday. Urban Development Minister Satyendar Jain made the announcement while responding to an issue on CCTVs raised by BJP MLA Anil Bajpai under Rule 280 (special mention) of the House.

“MLALAD funds have been scrapped in Delhi due to financial issues,” Jain said in a brief statement. Bajpai had sought to know the reason behind non-disbursal of MLALAD funds for installation of CCTV cameras.

Bajpai said that since CCTVs under the PWD-led project were not being installed at Gandhi Nagar, which he represents, he should be allowed to use MLALAD funds to carry out the work. Jain said the installation of CCTVs has also been hit by Covid, while MLALAD scheme has been suspended.

Many other states, including Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra, had also suspended MLALAD funds to tide over the Covid-induced financial crisis. However, both Himachal and Maharashtra have restored the funds, albeit with caps.

“The MLAs have not been able to access MLALAD ever since they were elected to office in February,” a government official said. The AAP government had in 2018 raised the allocation under the scheme from Rs 4 crore to Rs 10 crore per MLA.

The government had then said that “the condition of civic infrastructure in most of the residential colonies of Delhi is in a bad condition, which requires immediate augmentation and overhaul”.

“The failure of the local bodies and DDA in maintenance and upkeep of the civic amenities and infrastructure in their respective areas is a well-known fact, which could be tackled to some extent by increasing the quantum of funds and scope of work in the MLALAD scheme,” it had said in a statement.

On Saturday, it declined to comment on the issue.

Senior BJP MLA Vijender Gupta said the government must clarify its position on the matter and address the uncertainty: “The Centre had at least dealt with the suspension of MPLAD funds for two years with transparency. Why does the Delhi government not communicate its decision properly? When do they plan to restore the scheme? Do they plan to decrease the allocation? Also, if they have diverted money from the fund for meeting other expenses, it needs to be spelt out.”

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