Ranchi, March 31: Santhal Pargana may be “officially backward” but two MPs of this division, JMM boss and former chief minister Shibu Soren (Dumka) and BJP’s Nishikant Dubey (Godda), are ahead among 14 state MPs in utilising funds under MP local area development scheme (MPLADS) for their constituencies.
At a time when both Soren and Dubey are hoping to retain their seats, their “100-per cent-plus funds utilisation” figures, released by the Centre last week, is a major poll plank for them and their parties.
Under MPLADS, MPs can recommend expenditure touching Rs 5 crore per year to develop their respective constituencies. Jharkhand has 14 parliamentary seats with each entitled to Rs 19 crore under MPLADS in four fiscal years.
As Dumka MP under 15th Lok Sabha; Soren has a distinguished record of spending in excess — 111.72 per cent of the total allotment made between fiscal years 2009 and 2013. The Centre released Rs 14.14 crore for Dumka, which ultimately yielded Rs 15.95 crore with interest. Soren’s net expenditure was Rs 15.80 crore. Taking the original sum of Rs 14.14 crore, the state claimed utilisation of Soren Senior’s MPLADS funds stood at over 111 per cent.
Godda’s BJP MP achieved 102.55 per cent funds use. For the seat, the Centre released Rs 11.64 crore, against which expenditure incurred was Rs 11.94 crore.
“I ensured not a single paisa was surrendered (to the Centre). I utilised funds for roads, pond beautification, ambulances and library books. Please visit my constituency to see the change,” Dubey said.
The third MP of Santhal Pargana Devidhan Besra of Rajmahal — denied ticket this time by the BJP in favour of JMM turncoat Hemlal Murmu — also boasts funds utilisation percentage of 93.36.
Other BJP “performer-MPs” include Giridih’s Ravindra Kumar Pandey (85.20 per cent), Dhanbad’s P.N. Singh (81.44 per cent), Lohardaga’s Sudarshan Bhagat (78.36 per cent) and Hazaribagh’s Yashwant Sinha (76.63 per cent).
Others among Jharkhand’s 14 to have utilised their MPLADS funds well include JVM’s Jamshedpur MP Ajoy Kumar (80.76 per cent), Ranchi’s Congress MP Subodh Kant Sahay (77.63 per cent) and Chatra’s Independent MP Inder Singh Namdhari (76.48 per cent).
Two former chief ministers — Singhbhum sitting MP Madhu Koda (45.87 per cent) and JVM chief Babulal Marandi of Koderma (66.70 per cent) — are laggards on this list.
The central government launched MPLADS in 1993. On the lines of MPLADS, Jharkhand state also introduced MLA Local Area Development Fund (MLADF).
Under MLADF, each MLA receives Rs 3 crore a year for roads, community buildings and health projects, the funds released and monitored by state rural development department for all 82 MLAs. Respective district commissioners act as custodians of this aid.
Though MPs and MLAs are enthusiastic about grants, many political watchers consider the system to be the midwife of corruption, alleging public representatives reduce themselves to petty contractors.
“Naali aur gali banana MP aur MLA ka kaam nahin hai (MPs and MLAs are not supposed to make drains and lanes),” economist and professor Ramesh Saran says wryly. “Elected people’s representatives are meant to discuss and decide on policy. This system helps politicians patronise supporters and cadres with contracts. It’s also convenient to manage election funds,” Saran comments.
Lone CPI(ML) MLA Vinod Singh argued how these funds breed corruption and encroach on the right of local bodies. “According to norms, it is the prerogative of panchayat/village bodies to decide which work needs to be done and by whom. But the MP or MLA decides on priority of tasks, teams up with officials and ensures their own men get work orders,” Singh said.
In many unsavoury instances, MLAs have landed in controversy for crony capitalism involving their area development funds.
In 2011, then Godda DDC Dilip Jha accused sitting Godda RJD MLA Sanjay Singh Yadav of recommending a certain firm to supply solar lamps in his constituency at high market rates. The charge is under probe.
In 2012 and 2013, Mandar MLA Bandhu Tirkey, Bishunpur MLA Chamra Linda — both in Lok Sabha fray as TMC nominees for Ranchi and Lohardaga — and JMM’s Jamtara MLA Vishnu Prasad Bhaiya insisted books for school libraries in their constituencies be bought from a certain publication house. But, respective district administrations refused to obey the MLAs.
Former Ranchi University pro-VC V.P. Saran, however, favoured MP and MLA development funds. “Local civic bodies have limitations. What’s wrong if an MP/MLA recommends development work? But quality of work should be high. That’s lacking now,” he said.