The decision of the Central Government to suspend the MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funds for 2 years and divert a total of ₹7,900 crores to the Consolidated Fund of India, in the wake of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak, has drawn the ire of the Indian National Congress, Trinamool Congress, and other Opposition parties, as per a Times of India report.
Under the MPLADS scheme, a total of ₹5 crores is provided to the Members of the Parliament to suggest development work to the district collector in their respective constituencies. The scheme was formulated in December 1993 and is monitored by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation since 1994.
The government will thus save a total of ₹10 crores per MP for 2 years. As such, a total of ₹7900 crores from the 545 Lok Sabha and 245 Rajya Sabha members can be diverted to the Consolidated Fund of India. But, the Opposition was clearly not impressed.
Reaction of the Opposition
Congress politician Randeep Singh Surjewala said that suspending MPLADS funds will undermine the role and functions of a Member of Parliament. “If this money is finished, then this will have a direct negative impact on the people of the MP’s area and people of the country will lose out. If the country’s MPs lose their voice, then how will the Parliament function effectively. Hence, this needs to be restored”, he added.
Dear PM,— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) April 6, 2020
INC supports the salary cut for MP’s!
Please note that MPLAD is meant to execute developmental works in the constituency.
Suspending it is a huge disservice to the constituents & will undermine the role & functions of MP.https://t.co/kg2W55yeux
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider his decision regarding the suspension of MPLADS. In a separate Twitter thread, he claimed that he used his funds to supply rapid test kits & PPE maks to his constituency’s health workers.
Tharoor alleged, “Now the money will be allocated by the Centre &will follow the priorities & preferences of New Delhi, rather than reflect 543 sets of local needs.”
I have written to @PMOIndia @narendramodi ji respectfully requesting a reconsideration of the decision on MPLADS. The money can certainly be earmarked for the fight against #COVID19 but should be spent in constituencies & not allocated by a remote Central Govt. pic.twitter.com/4tX1PhYmVq— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) April 6, 2020
Manish Tewari, another Congress leader, dubbed the government’s move to fight the Wuhan Coronavirus as “a bit of an overstretch”. He alleged that suspension of MPLADS funds can make the existing humanitarian distress worse in the upcoming months. “MPLADS is a targeted and nimble instrument to customise micro-level interventions to alleviate distress. It is something that is required”, he was quoted as saying.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that “centralisation” was against the concept of ‘federalism’. He further alleged that the transfer of funds from the MPLADS is a reflection of the economic destruction caused since 2014.
There is enough evidence that COVID19 is best fought at the state and local level,” Yechury claimed. He also asked the Central Government to abandon the Centra Vista project in Delhi, in case it was short of funds. The CPI leader alleged further, “BJP has abundant funds from opaque electoral bonds, why isn’t it transferring it all to the govt during this crisis.”
There is enough evidence that #COVID19 is best fought at the state and local level. By suspending MPLADS, govt is taking away expenditure which would have attended to unique requirements of an area. This centralisation goes against federalism, development, will weaken our fight.— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) April 6, 2020
Trinamool Congress MP Sougata Roy said, “The decision to temporarily suspend the MPLAD is arbitrary and whimsical. We are opposing it.” Interestingly, there seems to be a strange dichotomy in the number of cases and deaths due to the Wuhan Coronavirus being reported from West Bengal. On April 2, after an expert committee announced that seven people had died due to the Chinese Coronavirus in Bengal, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha quickly issued an “explanation” to claim that the number of deaths was in, fact, three.