Ever-stretchable MPLAD scheme
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Following a circular dated November 30, MPs can now give up to Rs 1 crore a financial year out of their total Rs 5 crore MPLADS fund for works to societies and trusts, i.e. NGOs. There was repeated demand from many MPs in this regard, the circular from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation says.
However, the move has led to fresh questions being raised about the relevance of MPLAD funds. While the MP Local Area Development Scheme was started originally with the purpose of creating permanent assets, newer and newer relaxations to the guidelines have left it increasingly open to misuse of public money.
The most glaring grey area in this new relaxation is that the provision requiring electoral candidates, ministers, MPs and MLAs to declare their and their family's assets and liabilities makes no mention of their association with any NGOs, societies or trusts.
Attempts to know details of the societies attached to MPs and ministers routinely draw a blank, though that there are plenty which fall in this slot is open knowledge. There are very few parliamentarians who voluntarily put in the public domain the societies they are linked to.
Given this, it would be very difficult to ascertain if an MP gives money from the MPLADS funds to a society or trust associated with him/her. At a time when corruption is a vibrant political tool, some could see a conspiracy of silence in how this MPLAD move has passed muster with the entire political establishment without a noise.
Shyamlal is a senior assistant editor based in New Delhi, firstname.lastname@example.org