Chandigarh: When he was voted back to power in 2019, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar asked all the MLAs to submit to him a list of development work, amounting to Rs 5 crore, to be carried out in their respective constituencies.
“In life, it is not important to see who is ahead of us and who is behind us, it should also be seen who is with us and who we are with. Therefore, we should move forward with the motto of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’,” Khattar had said, replying to a discussion on the Governor’s address in his first assembly session then.
The CM had also announced that all the 90 MLAs, irrespective of their party affiliations, will have an equal share of development funds.
Three years down the line, however, several opposition MLAs allege that they haven’t received enough of the promised funds. They are now demanding the creation of MLA Local Area Development (MLALAD) funds along the lines of the MPLAD scheme for Members of Parliament (MPs).
Haryana does not have an MLALAD scheme of its own, and the opposition legislators feel that they are not in the position to fulfil the demands specific to their constituencies. With a scheme in place, they claim, they will be able to undertake whatever development work is required in their constituencies.
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Have no say, claim opposition MLAs
Speaking to ThePrint, Congress MLA Varun Chaudhary, who represents Mullana assembly segment of Ambala district, claimed legislators can hardly exercise their discretion in the execution of development works under the current scheme where the government hands out funds to MLAs.
“We are demanding MLA Local Area Development fund along the lines of the MPLAD fund for MPs. States such as Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab already have such schemes though their State Gross Domestic Product is much lower than that of Haryana. Himachal Pradesh has an MLALAD fund of Rs 2 crore per annum while the other three states provide a discretionary fund of Rs 5 crore per annum to each of their MLAs. Even a state like Manipur has MLALAD fund of Rs 2 crore per annum for each of its MLAs,” he added.
“The scheme (which) Khattar spoke about in response to our demand is a one-time announcement and the MLAs have no role to play in the utilisation of those funds.”
In the Assembly this Monday, Khattar had urged the MLAs to hold meetings and get information from officers if some development works are pending in any assembly constituency. The CM had made it clear that any development work, related to education, health, panchayat among others, can be done under the allocated amount of Rs 5 crore.
Chaudhary, meanwhile, said when the Opposition raised the demand in the Vidhan Sabha, Panchayat Minister Devender Babli tried to deviate from the issue by citing figures of Vidhayak Adarsh Gram Yojana (VAGY) instead, requesting the MLAs to prepare estimates for the works.
VAGY was started by the state government along the lines of Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) whereby the MLAs could spend up to Rs. 2 crore each.
However, no funds were provided after March 31, 2020, and the scheme was suspended amid Covid. Now the government has agreed to start the VAGY again, Chaudhary said.
Aftab Ahmed, Deputy Leader of the Congress Legislature Party, alleged that hardly Rs. 20-30 lakh have been spent in his Nuh assembly segment in the past three years.
“Under the MPLAD scheme, MPs have the discretion to utilise the funds on the projects of their choice. They can announce funds for a society, a dharamshala, or a sports body. But under the present scheme, a majority of development projects suggested by us are rejected by the officials who say they don’t fall within the parameters of the scheme,” he said.
His party legislator from Dabwali, Amit Sihag, agreed. He said that following Khattar’s announcement in 2019, he submitted a list of development projects to the officials, but most of them were rejected. In the past three years, hardly Rs 1.25 crore has been utilised in his constituency, he alleged.
“With VAGY suspended for the past two years, we hardly have any funds to carry out development projects for our constituents,” Ahmed added.
Not another scheme, says govt
On Monday, Khattar had turned down a short-notice question by Congress legislators Varun Chaudhary, Amit Sihag, and Aftab Ahmed who demanded funds along the lines of the MPLAD scheme.
The government already has a scheme in place whereby Rs. 5 crore each was provided to the MLAs for development work in their constituencies in 2014 as well as in 2019, he said, adding that as many as 67 of the 90 assembly constituencies in Haryana were allocated Rs 4-6 crore each in 2019.
The CM, however, admitted that there were some constituencies, such as Dadri, Beri, Garhi Sampla, Kalanaur, Ellenabad, Israna, Adampur, Rewari, Dabwali, and Kalanwali, where a lesser amount was utilised, but the MLAs could meet the officials for information on the pending work.
All these constituencies that the CM mentioned are represented by opposition legislators with the exception of Adampur which has Bharatiya Janata Party’s Bhavya Bishnoi as its MLA — the seat was earlier represented by his father Kuldeep Bishnoi before he quit the Congress and joined the BJP in August.
Garhi Sampla is represented by Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Beri by Raghubir Kadian, Kalanaur by Shakuntala Khattak, Rewari by Chiranjeev Rao, Israna by Balbir Singh, Kalanwali by Shishpal Singh, and Dabwali is represented by Amit Sihag, all of the Congress.
Ellenabad has Indian National Lok Dal’s Abhay Singh Chautala as its legislator while Dadri is represented by Independent MLA Sombir.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
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