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  MPs' welfare
  Legislate, not govern  
  THE Planning Commission will find it extremely difficult to resist the move to increase the yearly allocation under the MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) to each MP from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore.

A parliamentary committee that deals with MPLADS has asked the Commission to find the additional funds, if necessary, by pruning the allocations for such flagship programmes as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Since the scheme has the approval of a vast majority of MPs, cutting across party lines, the planning body will eventually have to give in. More so as the Supreme Court had last month struck a blow for the scheme by upholding its constitutional validity.

Even those who have fundamental objections to MPLADS on the ground that the job of the legislator is to legislate and not administer cannot oppose the demand which only recognises the reality of inflation. Started in 1993 by the P.V. Narasimha Rao Government, which did not enjoy a clear majority, to please the MPs, it began with Rs 50 lakh per year per MP. It was subsequently raised to Rs 1 crore and finally to Rs 2 crore.

Most states have also introduced similar schemes for their MLAs. It has now become part of a legislator's perks, although the implementing authority for such schemes is the District Collector with the role of the MP limited to identifying and recommending projects. A lot of assets like roads, community halls, wells, bus stands and school buildings have been created all over the country.

Distressingly, there have also been charges of corruption in the sanctioning and execution of projects. It was not long ago that a media organisation caught on tape several MPs demanding money for sanctioning projects.

There are a few MPs who oppose it on the ground that it distracts them from their primary duty which is representing people in the House concerned. For every development project they are able to sanction, there are several ones which they cannot. In the process, they gain more detractors than supporters.

Cases of MPs who have not been able to spend the allocated money are also not few and far between. The money which is given to MPs is at the cost of states as it would have, otherwise, gone to them. Because of MPLADS, people in rural areas nowadays run after their MP, rather than the local panchayat, if they need a new road or a new hospital building. It's grassroots democracy that suffers.
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