NEW DELHI: The government appears to have decided to suspend the MP Local Area Development Fund (MPLAD) for two years to bring uniformity in measures to deal with COVID-19 across the country.
MPs cutting across party lines are miffed at the Union government depriving them of their discretion in using the funds. Regional outfits have been vocal in demanding restoration of the funds, with some leaders telling the Prime Minister during a video interaction on Wednesday that the MPs needed the funds the most in such times to help their constituencies.
However, a senior government official said, “With the health emergency prevailing across the country, the MPs may have utilised part of the fund for procuring equipment to deal with the pandemic in their constituencies.“But district administration and the MPs may not have the necessary expertise to execute the purchase of the equipment. Besides, such a health emergency situation may also have compromised the transparency in the process of spending the funds.”
Another official said as the government needs resources to deal with the prevailing situation, including overhauling of the health infrastructure and capacity across the country, MPLADS suspension was “an obvious choice”.
“With centralised procurement of the equipment, including ventilators and safety gears for the medical professionals, it was incumbent to ensure standardisation of the purchase process with expertise which will be available at the central level,” said the official.
Uniformity in the equipment and procuring them in bulk, said the official, would also ensure the scale of economy, including price negotiation and terms of their servicing for long-term use along with the cushion to signal domestic capacities to respond to the requirements of the country.
The suspension of the MPLADS will free up to about Rs 7,900 crore for the government to divert the much-needed funds for ramping up efforts to check corona footprints.