MPs, who already get R5 crore each to develop their constituencies, suddenly have more funds to dip into. The government has made available to them money under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), its flagship livelihood programme.
The statistics and programme implementation ministry, which monitors the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), has decided to converge the fund with MGNREGA after representations from MPs, who wanted to use the additional resources to 'connect' with their constituency.The convergence means labour costs - major part of any work - would be met from the MGNREGA budget while money for materials will come from MPLADS.
The decision centralises the use of MGNREGA funds once again. Till now, gram panchayats used to decide works under MGNREGA. Now, MPs can recommend MGNREGA works suiting their constituencies under MPLADS. MGNREGA is budgeted at Rs 40,000 crore for the current financial year.
Access to its funds is a win-win for parliamentarians, who face Lok Sabha elections in two years.
They also get a shot at local recognition, with a plaque erected permanently at the asset built and showing the MPs' names and funds contributed.
Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, an RTI and right to work NGO, backed the new concept.
"The convergence model will give an impetus to MGNREGA and bring transparency to MPLADS," he said.
MGNREGA was launched by the UPA in 2006. It has so far generated over 1,100 crore man-days of work at an expenditure of over Rs 1,50,000 crore, making it the world's largest works entitlement programme.