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MPs can fund work from discretionary quota

MPs can fund work from discretionary quota

New Delhi: Federal lawmakers can now use their discretionary funds to finance work taken up under the government’s flagship jobs scheme, a move aimed at creating more lasting community assets in the villages.

The government has decided to converge the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). But MPLADS funds can be used only for the material component of the projects; the labour component will be funded by MGNREGS.

This is expected to help create more durable assets using the jobs scheme, which is criticized for not being able to create enough such assets in the villages.

The rural development ministry asked Mospi to reconsider the matter and allow the use of MPLADS funds for public utility buildings taken up under MGNREGS in rural areas.

On Monday, Mospi said in a statement that to avoid duplication, accounts of expenditure will be maintained separately for MPLADS and MGNREGS.

After the convergence of the two schemes, members of Parliament (MPs) can recommend works out of the shelf of MGNREGS projects approved by zila panchayats, which are local governance bodies. “As far as possible, the MPLADS funds shall be used in respect of material component only," the statement said.

Guidelines of MGNREGS such as that on not allowing contractors and on social audits will be strictly followed. “Since the material and labour components are expected to flow simultaneously, it will not be necessary in these convergence cases for MPLADS funds to be used only at the end," Mospi said.

Yamini Aiyar, a senior research fellow and director of the accountability initiative at the Centre for Policy Research, a think tank in New Delhi, said the decision is a move in the right direction. “My problem with MPLADS has been that it follows a top-down approach which disempowers local governments. If MPLADS is used to fund the shelf of projects selected by the zila panchayat and follow the MGNREGS guidelines, then it is a good move," she said. “However, the challenge to involve the local communities to determine a shelf of work remains irrespective of the source of the funds."

MPLADS was started in December 1993 with the objective of enabling MPs to recommend developmental work with an emphasis on creating durable community assets in their constituencies, such as drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads.

Initially, MPs were allottedRs 5 lakh a year, which was later increased to 1 crore and subsequently to 2 crore in 1998-99. Last year, the fund allocation was increased to 5 crore.

MGNREGS, the flagship welfare programme of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, guarantees 100 days of manual work a year to each rural household. It has a budget of 40,000 crore for this fiscal year. For MPLADS, tendering is the norm, which is not required for MGNREGS. Under MGNREGS, the wage-material ratio has to stay at 60:40, but MPLADS has no such stipulation.

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