While Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu referred to the “wide gap” between the number of Bills passed by the previous Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to express his “concern” and appealed to end the “downslide” in the functioning of the Upper House, Deputy Chairman Harivansh is learnt to have red-flagged the problems “plaguing” the “most criticised scheme” of MPLADS with Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) at the end of the last Lok Sabha.
Sources have told The Indian Express that Harivansh, who is ex-officio Chairman of the Committee on MPLADS (MP Local Area Development Scheme), cited observations from several CAG reports, findings of the Programme Evaluation Organisation of the erstwhile Planning Commission, observations of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and Supreme Court judgments to “substantiate” his “concern” regarding the scheme.
The MPLADS scheme was launched during the Narasimha Rao Government in 1993 ostensibly to provide funds for developmental works recommended by individual MPs. The MPs were entitled to recommend works to the tune of Rs 1 crore annually between 1994-95 and 1997-98 after which the annual entitlement was enhanced to Rs 2 crore. The UPA government in 2011-12 raised the annual entitlement to Rs 5 crore per MP.
Not only poor implementation, the scheme has faced flak from the CAG on various grounds that included sanctioning of huge sums to trusts/societies beyond the norms or sanctioning of funds to ineligible organisations. The utilisation of MPLADS funds on the ground has even invited allegations or wrongdoing at the grassroots level by political opponents eroding public trust in elected representatives.
In January, it is learnt, Harivansh expressed these concerns in a letter to Sadananda Gowda, then Minister for MOSPI. “You may appreciate that the MPLAD Scheme is the only scheme at all-India level with the involvement of the local communities, groups and section of the people for the identification of works and facilities required as per the ‘felt needs and wish list’ of the local people. It, however, remains today one of the most criticised schemes for various reasons,” Harivansh wrote. He added: “I have noticed many problems plaguing such a useful scheme at every level”.
Referring to first-hand feedback obtained during the MPLADS committee’s visit in November last year, the Deputy Chairman is learnt to have suggested the need to “reflect upon” those aspects of the scheme’s implementation where public money was not being spent properly.
“…we need to reflect upon the huge amount of public money being held up without being spent properly on the works under this scheme, which otherwise could have been put to public use,” Harivansh wrote reminding that “most of the time the MPs are singularly blamed for poor utilization of their MPLADS funds”.
The Deputy Chairman sought the “co-operation and valuable views and suggestions” from MOSPI for “improving” the performance of the scheme. But his letter enclosing critical remarks from various institutions appeared an attempt to nudge the government to rethink the MPLAD scheme that has ended up, sources said, giving MPs “a bad name at the grassroots level.”