The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mess of MP scheme

New Delhi, Dec. 21: The jury is still out on whether the scheme under which MPs are given money to develop their constituencies should be scrapped after STAR News showed seven MPs demanding or accepting bribes to sanction projects.

But an audit report drawn up as far back as 1998 had found that almost all the guidelines that are supposed to govern the MP local area development scheme have been flouted. Excerpts from the damning report:

Guideline: Don’t engage private contractors. District collectors and panchayats should implement projects or commission handpicked NGOs.

Reality: In 182 cases, projects involving Rs 2.72 crore were entrusted to contractors. In some cases, MPs themselves were the sponsors.

Guideline: If the MP changes, the continuity of the projects should be maintained.

Reality: Between 1994 and 1997, 802 works in 33 districts of 15 states were either abandoned or left unfinished. The damage: Rs 5.75 crore.

Guideline: Implement projects recommended only by the MP.

Reality: Between 1993 and 1997, Madhya Pradesh alone accounted for 4,123 cases involving Rs 45.23 crore that were not sanctioned by MPs. From January 17 to May 12, 1997, the Patna collector okayed 13 schemes involving Rs 95.86 lakh. Part of the money was used to repair a road the scheme did not cover.

Guideline: Don’t use the money to give grants and loans to any organisation.

Reality: Some collectors diverted Rs 17 crore for loans and grants.

Guideline: No places of religious worship shall be funded or built with the money.

Reality: As many as 64 projects with some religious link were executed at Rs 58.75 crore. The projects include a Hindu sect’s community hall in Imphal, the platform of an Idgah in Medak, dharamshalas in Orissa and the “beautification” of a temple in Almora.

The litany of lapses forms the central theme of an exhaustive study carried out by Era Sezhiyan, a veteran parliamentarian and a founder member of the DMK. He is a former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and was associated with several parliamentary panels when he was an MP.

Titled, “MPLADS: Concept, Confusion, Contradictions”, Sezhiyan’s report concludes that the “greatest” damage done by the scheme was to “obstruct the process of decentralisation of authority and resources towards the emergence of village-level self-governments”.

All-party meet

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, said to be in favour of disbanding the scheme, reportedly shares Sezhiyan’s view. The Speaker has taken the initiative to convene a dinner meeting of top politicians in the country to discuss the fate of the scheme.

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