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MP funds

New Delhi, Dec. 11: Members of Parliament wangled an assurance from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today that the demand for an increase in their local area development fund would be considered sympathetically despite the CAG’s observation that it was being misused in some places, reports our special correspondent.

A delegation of MPs met Vajpayee with a request that the fund be increased to Rs 3 crore as against the current Rs 2 crore, which, they claimed, was insufficient to meet the development needs of their constituencies.

The Prime Minister assured them it would be considered for the next budget, sources said, adding that despite the assurance, the finance minister might find it difficult to generate the funds at a time when several states were demanding money to tide over the drought.

The Centre will have to mobilise an additional Rs 800 crore to keep Vajpayee’s word. The fund is sanctioned to MPs for the development of their constituencies during their tenure.

Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi, who described the fund as a success story, had personally discussed the issue with the Prime Minister, sources close to the Speaker said.

Joshi told Vajpayee that development fund utilisation levels had shown considerable and rapid improvement, having recorded 76 per cent spending in the current year against the previous 55 per cent. But the CAG in its recent report cited widespread misuse of the fund in Bihar and some Northeast states.

The utilised amount works out to Rs 7,253 crore against a release of Rs 9,780 crore so far, sources said.

The Speaker informed the Prime Minister that several states had introduced a similar scheme for its legislators, who were sanctioned an amount between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 75 lakh annually for constituency development, sources added. A parliamentary constituency encompasses between seven and nine Assembly segments in most states.

Joshi had organised a workshop on the local area development fund scheme on August 7 and 8, which was attended by 150 MPs, some of whom demanded that the amount be raised to Rs 5 crore.

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