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Delhi cabinet raises MLA fund from Rs 4 crore to Rs 10 crore, hike of 150%

Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on Tuesday approved a 150% hike in the local area development (MLALAD) funds under which every legislator will be entitled to an annual sum of Rs 10 crore per year instead of the existing Rs 4 crore per year for development work in their constituencies.

delhi Updated: Aug 08, 2018 09:47 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aam Aadmi Party,MLALAD,cabinet meeting
The decision was taken in a Delhi cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.(PTI/File Photo)

Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on Tuesday approved a 150% hike in the local area development (MLALAD) funds under which every legislator will be entitled to an annual sum of Rs 10 crore per year instead of the existing Rs 4 crore per year for development work in their constituencies.

The decision, taken in a cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and conveyed to the Delhi assembly on Tuesday, makes the funds available to the city’s 70 MLAs twice the amount that the seven members of Parliament in the national Capital get for their constituencies as per the Union government’s provisions for all MPs.

The move came under heavy criticism from experts and Opposition leaders on several grounds — the overwhelming number of AAP MLAs in the assembly, the proximity to next year’s Lok Sabha elections and state elections due in 2020, and because several of the MLAs had been unable to spend the existing amount available to them effectively.

Kejriwal, however, justified the decision saying that MLAs have to be directly in touch with the people. “People go to them for their smallest needs. The MLA fund makes it possible to address those needs immediately,” he told reporters. Though Kejriwal did not explain where the additional funds for the scheme would come from, a senior bureaucrat familiar with the state’s finances said that an additional allocation would either have to be made under a supplementary grant or in revised Budget estimates later this year.

“In the budget of 2018-19, there was an allocation of Rs 280 crore towards MLALAD funds. Any additional budget allocation of Rs 420 crore per year Rs 6 crore extra for every MLA) can be done in the supplementary grant or a provision can be made in the revised budget estimate around November or December,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The AAP has 66 of the 70 MLAs in the Delhi assembly. The remaining four are from the BJP.

Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), described the increase as “too much”. “It is impossible not to see this decision in isolation of the politics involved. The Lok Sabha elections are due next year and then there will be assembly elections in Delhi. The timing is such that the party has to prepare for these elections. The 66 AAP MLAs will be reviving their vote base by showing development works in different constituencies,” he said.

The leader of the Opposition in the Delhi assembly, Vijender Gupta of the BJP, criticised the move, saying it would not help the people of Delhi. “Since the past three years, the AAP MLAs have not done any work. Now that elections are inching close, the government hurriedly increased MLALAD funds to R10 crore. People will not benefit from this additional fund until the procedure of spending MLALAD is not simplified. Legislators have only been able to spend half the fund of the previous year,” he said.

But deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia argued that the government had decided to give complete discretion to legislators on how they want to spend the fund.

“At present, MLAs have to mandatorily pay Rs 1 crore crore to the Delhi Jal Board for the maintenance of water lines. We have removed even this clause now. The Cabinet has also given power to the urban development minister to make minor changes in guidelines meant for the MLA LAD fund from time to time,” he said

When contacted, a government spokesperson contended that the approval of the lieutenant-governor would not be required following the July 4 Supreme Court order that gave the elected wing the powers to take decisions on issues other than the reserved subjects — land, law and order and policing. “However, since the SC directed us to keep the L-G informed, we will apprise him about the Cabinet decision,” he added.

Urban development Minister Satyendar Jain said the Cabinet’s decision will be implemented this year. “It will be done in a few months as the urban development department will have to notify it,” he said.

First Published: Aug 08, 2018 02:38 IST