News Excerpt
The government suspended the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme so that these funds would be available for its COVID-19 management efforts. Suspension of the MPLAD Scheme will make Rs 7,800 crore available to the government.

•    Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao announced the scheme on December 23, 1993 in Lok Sabha.
•    MPLAD is a central government scheme, under which MPs can recommend development programmes involving spending of Rs 5 crore every year in their respective constituencies. MPs from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, including nominated ones, can do so.
•    The Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament can recommend works in one or more districts in the State from where he/she has been elected.
•    The Nominated Members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select any one or more Districts from any one State in the Country for implementation of their choice of work under the scheme.
•    States have their version of this scheme (MLALAD) with varying amounts per MLA.

How is it implemented?
    MPs and MLAs do not receive any money under these schemes. The government transfers it directly to the respective local authorities. The legislators can only recommend works in their constituencies based on a set of guidelines.
    For the MPLAD Scheme, the guidelines focus on the creation of durable community assets like roads, school buildings etc. Recommendations for non-durable assets can be made only under limited circumstances. For example, last month, the government allowed use of MPLAD funds for the purchase of personal protection equipment, coronavirus testing kits etc.

Criticism of present suspension of MPLAD
    Opposition MPs termed the move a gross injustice towards people’s representatives.
    The diversion of MPLAD funds would centralise their administration and decrease the efficiency of their disbursal.

Questions of Constitutionality of the Scheme
    Against the spirit of federalism: In 2002, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution recommended immediate discontinuation of the MPLAD scheme on the ground that it was inconsistent with the spirit of federalism and distribution of powers between the centre and the state.
    Against separation of power between legislative and executive: The 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission’s report on “Ethics in Governance” takes a firm stand against the scheme arguing that it seriously erodes the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive.  
    The Supreme Court upheld Constitutionality: In response to a Writ Petition that challenged the constitutionality of the MPLAD scheme as ultra vires of the Constitution of India, in May 2010, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that there was no violation of the concept of separation of powers because the role of an MP in this case is recommendatory and the actual work is carried out by the Panchayats and Municipalities which belong to the executive organ.

Other Criticisms
    Allegations of corruption associated with allocation of works. The Comptroller and Auditor General has on many occasions highlighted gaps in implementation.
    The workload on MPs created by the scheme diverted their attention from holding the government accountable and other legislative work.

Way Forward
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has suggested that a single parliamentary committee be formed comprising members of both Houses of Parliament to monitor MPLAD schemes. This will bring uniformity in the monitoring standard of the scheme.
Unless problems such as poor utilisation of funds, irregular sanction of works, delay in completion of works are tackled in an efficient manner, the efficacy of the scheme will remain in doubt.

Impact created by MPLAD scheme
    Until 2017, nearly 19 lakh projects worth Rs 45,000 crore had been sanctioned under the MPLAD Scheme.
    Third-party evaluators appointed by the government reported that the creation of good quality assets had a “positive impact on the local economy, social fabric and feasible environment”.
    82% of the projects have been in rural areas and the remaining in urban/semi-urban areas.

Separation of Power, Balance of Power, 2nd ARC, Writ Jurisdiction