Under MPLADS, the Members of Parliament are supposed to choose a nodal district. More often than not, the MPs recommend works in these nodal districts from their quota of funds. Available data indicates that many MPs choose urban areas as their nodal districts with some districts chosen by multiple MPs. Because of this, only 62% of the districts in the country are chosen as nodal districts by MPs under the MPLADS.
In an earlier story, we had observed that around Rs. 1.75 thousand crores of MPLADS funds are unutilized, as per the data shared by the government in the Lok Sabha. These funds are to be primarily utilized across 418 Nodal districts as chosen by Lok Sabha members and 176 Nodal districts as chosen by Rajya Sabha members. We had observed disparities in the availability of these unused funds, with more than 50% of the unused funds of Lok Sabha MPLADS being from 5 states. Further, 11 out of the 418 Nodal districts chosen by Lok Sabha MPLADS have over Rs.10 crores of unutilized funds each. Such disparity is observed even in the case of Rajya Sabha MPLADS funds.
The data clearly indicates that there is considerable overlap in terms of the districts chosen as nodal districts by the MPs of the Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha. While few districts are chosen by multiple MPs, in some cases by more than 5, a considerable number of districts are left out. Though MPs can recommend works outside of their nodal districts, the MPLADS funds are often spent in the nodal districts chosen by MPs. We look at the numbers behind these districts, the ones are chosen by multiple MPs and the ones left out.
District of Kolkata receives MPLADS funds from the highest number of RS MPs followed by Bengaluru Urban
In the MPLADS dashboard, information of the MPLADS funds for various works undertaken by 168 sitting Rajya Sabha members is provided. As highlighted in the earlier story, a Rajya Sabha MP can choose any district from the state that he/she is elected from as the nodal district for MPLADS.
Further, there are no restrictions on multiple Rajya Sabha (RS) MPs choosing the same district as their nodal district. Among the districts chosen by the 168 sitting Rajya Sabha MPs for whom the information is available on the MPLADS dashboard, there are 20 such districts chosen by multiple RS MPs. Another102 nodal districts have been chosen only by a single RS MP.
Among these 20 districts chosen by more than one RS member as their nodal district, Kolkata has been chosen by the most number which is 10 MPs. Out of these, 9 MPs are elected to Rajya Sabha from West Bengal and another MP is a nominated MP. The next district with the highest number of Rajya Sabha MPs is Bengaluru Urban with 5 MPs choosing it as their nodal district, followed by Lucknow & South Delhi that have been chosen by 4 RS members each.
Out of these 20 districts that have been chosen by more than one RS member, 10 districts belong to the capital cities of the respective states. This excludes Pune & Thane, which are among the larger urban agglomerations in the country. Furthermore, the Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh that is selected by 3 Rajya Sabha MPs is geographically closer to Andhra Pradesh’s new capital of Amaravati.
This indicates that districts part of metros or highly urban areas and relatively developed districts are a preferred choice for many members of the RS. At the same time, the need for a greater amount of funds due to the higher population density in these districts cannot be ruled out. A review of those districts chosen only by a single Rajya Sabha member also shows a preference for districts part of the respective capital cities or larger cities of the States.
80 districts receive MPLADS funds from more than one Lok Sabha MP
The information regarding MPLADS funds for the members of the 17th Lok Sabha (LS) shows that 445 districts in the country have been selected as nodal districts by the sitting MPs. Among these, 365 districts were selected as nodal districts by a single LS MP. A total of 80 districts were chosen as the nodal district by more than one Lok Sabha MP. There are 63 districts which is the nodal district for 2 MPs, while another 13 districts receive MPLADS funds from 3 MPs.
The district of South Twenty-Four Parganas in West Bengal is chosen as the Nodal district by 4 MPs of the current 17th Lok Sabha. Three districts were chosen as the nodal district by 5 Lok Sabha MPs each – Mumbai Suburban, North Twenty-Four Paraganas and Pune. It has to be noted that Mumbai Suburban & Pune are among the districts which were selected by multiple Rajya Sabha MPs as well.
Compared to a Rajya Sabha MP, the choice is limited for a Lok Sabha MP since they can only choose a district that falls in their own constituency. Few of the Lok Sabha constituencies encompass multiple districts while in a few other cases, a single district can have multiple Lok Sabha constituencies. This is true especially in the case of large cities. There could be an overlap of districts across Lok Sabha constituencies as well. Hence, the reasons for multiple Lok Sabha MPs choosing a single district are manifold. We could however notice the concentration of districts part of large cities being chosen as the nodal district compared to other rural districts though the choice is more widespread compared to Rajya Sabha in terms of geography.
136 districts receive MPLADS funds from both Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha MPs
As noted earlier, Mumbai Sub-urban and Pune are among the districts which are selected as nodal districts not only by multiple MPs but multiple MPs from both Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha. There are other districts as well which have received funds under MPLADS from multiple Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha MPs. Further, there are also other districts that are not necessarily chosen by multiple Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha MPs but are chosen as nodal Districts by both LS and RS members.
An analysis of the information provided by the government recently on the availability of unutilized funds shows that there are 136 such districts that are chosen by both an LS as well as an RS member.
A total of 23 States/UTs have such districts which are nodal districts for both Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha MP. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of such districts with 23, followed by Maharashtra & Odisha with 11 each. Bihar & Gujarat have 10 such districts.
Around 62% of the districts in the country chosen as Nodal districts under MPLADS
As per the information available on the Government of India Directory, there are 730 districts in the country. As per the information shared by the government recently, a total of 451 districts were chosen as nodal districts by either a Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha MP. Since the same district was chosen by multiple MPs in some cases, this 451 is the number of unique districts chosen as a nodal district by at least one MP. This means that out of the total number of districts in the country, around 62% of the total districts in the country.
The coverage of districts chosen as MPLADS nodal districts in comparison with the total number of districts in a state varies across the states.
Andhra Pradesh, Bihar & Kerala are the larger states which have 100% coverage. Meanwhile, Maharashtra, & Uttar Pradesh have more than 95 % coverage. However, few of the other states like Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand, etc. have lower coverage (40-70%). It is much lower in the North Eastern States. It could also be due to the fact that new districts were formed in certain states like Telangana.
A correlation can be drawn with the number of MPs from the respective state and the Districts covered under the MPLADS nodal district. Those states with the number of Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha MPs nearly equal to the number of districts have better coverage while those with lower coverage are invariably those with fewer MPs than that of the districts. For Example, while Madhya Pradesh has 52 districts, the number of Lok Sabha MPs is 28 and Rajya Sabha MPs are 11. The number of districts covered under MPLADS in Madhya Pradesh is 32.
Need to review the current process followed for selection of Nodal districts for MP LADS
The data indicates that more than 1/3rd of the districts in the country are not chosen as a nodal district for the purpose of MPLADS funds by any of the MPs from either the LS or the RS. As highlighted through this story, the reasons are many.
The difference between the number of the MPs from the State and the number of districts in the State could be cited as one of the main reasons for districts to be left out. As per the current guidelines, only one nodal district can be chosen by an MP.
Apart from this, multiple MPs choosing a single nodal district is also a reason for many of the districts in a state being left out. We have highlighted earlier the preference in the choice of such nodal districts being larger Urban centres or comparatively developed districts. The example of Kolkata being the nodal district for 10 Rajya Sabha MPs can be considered as an example.
While an MP does have the option to recommend work beyond a single district as long as it is within the jurisdiction, the available data from the MPLADS dashboard shows that this is usually not the case. Most MPs have not recommended works beyond their nodal district.
The case of a Lok Sabha MP choosing a district within the constituency is understandable since he is elected by the people of those districts. This cannot be said of the Rajya Sabha MPs since they are not chosen by people of a specific district. The MPLADS for Rajya Sabha MPs can be utilized to bridge the difference in those states which have more districts than the MPs. Rajya Sabha MPs could be encouraged to choose a district that is left out.
A more centralized approach at the state level, in choosing the nodal districts could make a huge difference and avoid cases where multiple MPs choose the same district. Further, identifying the districts which are in need of funds and assigning them for MPLADS can help in more equitable distribution of funds. However, the practicality of this is doubtful since the spending of the MPLADS funds is primarily the prerogative of the MP subject to the existing guidelines.
All said & done, since a considerable amount is being spent on the MPLADS, there is a need to revisit the scheme both to improve utilization & efficiency and also to ensure better coverage of districts under the scheme as nodal districts.
Featured Image: Nodal Districts under MPLADS