Wind up the MPLADS if this is the way it works

Mail Today's news item on the poor utilisation of Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) funds should give the general public an idea of how devoted many of our parliamentarians are to the constituencies that elect them.

As many as 73 MPs in the Lok Sabha have not used up even 33 per cent of the money released to them under MPLADS since the 15th Lok Sabha came into existence.

Why, there are four MPs who have not opened their account at all in the last three years.

Zero scorers: (From left) H.D. Kumaraswamy, Lalu Prasad and Kirti Azad are among the MPs whose percentage utilisation of the money was zero

Zero scorers: (From left) H.D. Kumaraswamy, Lalu Prasad and Kirti Azad are among the MPs whose percentage utilisation of the money was zero

Mind you, it was only last year that the annual entitlement for parliamentarians under MPLADS was hiked from `2 crore to `5 crore.

It's clear that the past record of our MPs was not one of the criteria when this decision was taken.

The Public Accounts Committee, which submitted its report on MPLADS spending during the 14th Lok Sabha's tenure last week, has come down heavily on the authorities.

The non-completion of projects and the non-utilisation of the earmarked funds 'defeat the very purpose for which the scheme was conceived,' it has said. It calculated that out of the total allotment of `17,891.15 crore to district administrations between 2004 and 2009, merely `8,084.53 crore was spent.

Lack of accountability seems to be the hallmark of the scheme given that projects are being executed without the formal recommendation of the MP concerned, remaining incomplete or not taking off at all. The reason may not be difficult to guess.

The PAC has discovered that close to 20 years since its inception, the MPLADS still does not have a credible system of internal audits.

That also explains why many see MPLADS as a giant scam. Actually, it should be simply shut down and its money put to use through regular development schemes.

Government acts smart for once

The Finance Ministry headed by Pranab Mukherjee deserves praise for having done their homework to tell Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, that India was only doing what the UK had done to check tax avoidance through the tax haven route.

It must have indeed been very embarrassing for Mr Osborne to be confronted with the proof that the UK government had also been enacting laws with retrospective effect to curb tax avoidance.

Clearly, his stand on the Vodafone issue was shown to be a case of a government adopting double standards. It is quite evident that in the new world order you cannot have one set of rules for the sake of your own national interests, and then expect other sovereign countries to sacrifice their interests because a big corporate is able to get the backing of its home government.

Mr Mukherjee's victory is also reflected in the fact that the joint statement issued after the meeting did not have any reference whatsoever to the Vodafone issue.

Mr Osborne was, if anything else, politically naive in trying to pressure the government of India in this public manner. More than anything, the move is likely to have stayed the government of India's hand in offering any compromise on the matter.

Antony wakes up at last

So it does take a crisis for the Indian system to get going. The result of the standoff between the Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh and the Defence Minister A.K. Antony has yielded a positive outcome.

The Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Mr Antony has cleared the 12th Defence Plan and the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) for the 2012-2027 period in one day flat.

This is a stupendous achievement since Defence Plans usually get approval years after their inception. The 11th Plan (2007-12) never got formal approval through the period of its pendency.

Therefore, it remains to be seen as to whether the Defence Ministry is able to lend genuine content to the planning process, or end up treating approval as a mere piece of paper, as it has done till now.

Since several Defence Plans have not been approved till now, the LTIPPs have been meaningless. Hopefully, the sudden burst of energy in the MOD will be the beginning of a new era in which plans and processes matter.


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