Even as the Ministry of Home Affairs’ probe into the “foreign involvement” in the Legislative Assistants to MPs (LAMP) scheme is heading nowhere, the PRS Legislative Research has invited applications to recruit another bunch of legislative assistants.
The MHA had ordered a probe into the process of “foreign funded researchers” getting into the Parliamentary system. And it was also looking into how far “coloured research’’ has seeped into the system and how far “lobbying’’ has worked its way upward. But the inquiry seems to be heading no way.
Said a source in the know, “It was a classic case of coloured research and political lobbying. We wanted to look into how our MPs got ‘entangled’ in the foreign funded scheme. But there were a lot of pressure from several quarters not to go ahead with the probe as it would put the Parliamentary system and our MPs under suspicion, Moreover, every political party from the Left, Right and Centre were involved.”
Under the LAMP scheme launched in 2008, PRS places one legislative assistant to work with an MP for 11 months. Prominent among the 46 lawmakers currently having LAMPS working with them are Mani Shankar Aiyer, Rajiv Shukla and Manish Tewari from the Congress; the BJP’s Rajeev Pratap Rudy, Shanawas Hussein and Prakash Jadvekar and NK Singh from the JD(U).
The involvement of Ford Foundation in the programme had caught the MHA’s attention when PRS, through its sister concern Institute for Policy Research Studies (IPRS), had applied for an FCRA clearance to receive foreign funding. The IPRS wanted to receive $8,55,000 (`4,70,25,000) from Ford Foundation and $ 1 million from Omidiyar Network that belongs to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
A government source said the MHA hasn’t closed the case yet but only lost the initial steam. Asked about the new recruitment drive, the official said, “MHA clearance is required only if one needs to get foreign funds. As per our understanding, the current programme is fully run on domestic contributions.”
He also said PRS had applied again for FCRA clearance but Minister of State for Home Mullappalli Ramachandran rejected the application stating that it was a closed case.