BHUBANESWAR: As State finances will take months to improve, the Government is contemplating to reduce the corpus of the Local Area Development (LAD) fund and has put a cap on its expenditure to minimise non-Covid expenses.
The Government had announced in the 2020-21 annual budget to increase the MLALAD from Rs 1 crore to Rs 3 crore.
Of this, Rs 2 crore was meant for general development works while Rs 50 lakh each was earmarked to be utilised for roads and development works of colleges in the constituencies.
However, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and the state of the economy, Government seems not in favour of increasing the MLALAD fund. Instead, it has put a cap of Rs 50 lakh on MLALAD expenditure, which can only be spent on Covid-19 management in the constituencies. The Centre has already suspended MPLAD fund for the next two years, 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Narasingh Mishra said he has placed Rs 50 lakh with the district collectors for Covid related expenditure out of which Rs 20 lakh was utilised for distribution of food packets for bus, truck, taxi drivers during the lockdown period when they were out of work. However, rest of the MLALAD fund has been withheld and there is no sanction for expenditure in any work at the constituency level, he said and added that it has become very difficult for the legislators to function.
He said salary of the MLAs has also been drastically cut by 70 per cent. Earlier, an MLA used to get salary of Rs 98,000. But now he gets only Rs 29,000, he said and added that all allowances have also been slashed.
Opposition Chief Whip Mohan Majhi admitted that after placement of Rs 50 lakh from the MLALAD, the rest of the fund has been frozen. “We cannot take up any development work at the constituency level and no one is ready to listen also,” he said.
A BJD MLA, requesting anonymity, also alleged that when legislators are contacting the district planning office, there is only one reply, “Funds have not been placed under MLALAD.” The BJD MLA maintained that the situation is likely to continue till State finances improved. Finance department officials, however, did not respond. The MLAs said Government has not issued any letter to them in this regard also. The ruling BJD legislator said that district collectors have been instructed verbally.
Minister of State for Science and Technology Ashok Chandra Panda said Rs 1 crore from the MLALAD has been placed in the district planning offices. Out of this, Rs 50 lakh has been spent on Covid management. In the three Bhubaneswar assembly constituencies, Rs 50 lakh each will be spent on setting up Covid Care Homes (CCHs), he said. As the assembly is likely to be convened in the last week of August or first week of September, MLAs cutting across partylines are expected to raise the issue.