Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Monday took a swipe at the centre after it scrapped a personal fund for Members of Parliament that can be deployed for projects in their constituencies. The government's move to consolidate the MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years comes as it looks for ways to mobilise resources to carry on the fight against COVID-19, which has so far infected over 4,000 and killed over 100 in India.
Mr Tharoor tweeted photos of the material he bought with his MPLAD funds, before it was scrapped by the centre - cartons of 1,000 rapid testing and 1,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits.
"Thiruvananthapuram: proud that 1000 more Rapid RT-PCR test kits & 1000 PPE kits delivered to the District Medical Officer today. Final batch of 1000 #rapidtestkits will be delivered on Wednesday & 7500 PPE kits next week. Put my MP funds to good use just before the Govt cut them," the MP tweeted.
Kerala has 314 positive cases of COVID-19. Two have died of the disease.
"Centre's decision to cut salaries &pensions of MPs is welcome. It's a good way for us to show solidarity w/people suffering across the country. But the Ordinance ending MPLADS funds for 2 years &pooling them into a Consolidated Fund run by the CentralGovt is problematic," Mr Tharoor tweeted.
MPLADS preserved the sense of direct responsibility for the well-being of constituents that is a hallmark of an Indian MP's work. Now the money will be allocated by the Centre &will follow the priorities&preferences of NewDelhi, rather than reflect 543 sets of local needs.[cntd.]— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) April 6, 2020
"MPLADS is the only means for an MP to direct development resources to his constituency. An order to earmark all MPLAD spending for #COVID19 related measures would have been OK; I used mine to get urgently-needed #rapidtestkits & PPE to Thiruvananthapuram's health workers," he said.
"MPLADS preserved the sense of direct responsibility for the well-being of constituents that is a hallmark of an Indian MP's work. Now the money will be allocated by the Centre &will follow the priorities & preferences of NewDelhi, rather than reflect 543 sets of local needs," Mr Tharoor tweeted.
"To take one example, the Centre has allocated ₹157 cr of Disaster Response Mitigation Funds to Kerala, which has 314 #COVID19 cases, while Gujarat, with only 122 cases, gets ₹662 cr. Will this kind of imbalance also affect the reallocation of MPLADS funds... In order to avoid such injustice, it's essential that MPLADS money continues to be spent constituency-wise. I urge the Govt to revise this decision by allowing MPs to earmark these funds for #COVID19 related expenditure to meet local needs &benefit the vulnerable. It's their job," Mr Tharoor tweeted.