MLA LOCAL AREA DEVELOPMENT FUND IN MANIPUR

by Mohendro Nandeibam. This article was originally published by the People's Chronicle (http://thepeopleschronicle.in)

Big Community Hall and Small Community Life:
Can we think of 60 Production-cum Training Centres with Rs. 300 crore within 5 years?

Manipur should not and cannot claim a place of honour and respectability in the comity of sister states in the North-East, not to speak in the whole country, as evidently substantiated by the World Bank whose view, is “Non-Development” measured largely by the unchanged composition of products, unchanged factor-combination and unchanged technology. This is the dismal fate after 65 years of economic planning in the country. We could not undertake the exhaustive Investment Planning based on fair calculation of costs and benefits, merits and demerits and short term gains and long term loss. The recent trend of globalization and increasing liberalization has exposed the fundamental weaknesses of structural stagnation.

All these calculations explain the profound significance of Investment Planning; perhaps, as a beginning of Investment Destination. Economic Planning; Planning with a Vision and redefined objectives, ultimately boils down to the investment planning.

A careful examination of Investment Planning will tell you of a new culture of hard work, disciplined outlook, professional behavior and unity in approach and action. The simultaneous combination of Autonomous and Induced Investments could be a convincing strategy for modern development with larger Multiplier Effect. Perhaps, this is what Narendra Modi, Honourable Prime Minister of India, refers to as Democracy, Demographic Dividend and Demand. A disciplined economic democracy with a strong public law can certainly make headway with skilled manpower (demographic dividend) and ensure effective purchasing power with ever enlarging scope of employment.

Right now, Manipur is unable to pick up. The financial base is too weak. Fiscal self-reliance is a far cry. The technical base is also too weak. The managerial capability is equally weak. There is dearth of professional knowledge.

We cannot run even a small enterprise on sustainable basis. Development administration is just a new input. There is conceptual confusion between general administration and development administration. While Outcome Budget has been the guiding principle of development administration in most of advanced states, Manipur is scrambling with most conservative financial instrument known as Outlay Budget.

 As a result the investment decision is either weak or wrong; and inter-sectoral linkage is missing. Sectoral harmony and convergence is a serious issue. Every year we are experiencing a new phenomenon of lop-sided investment.

An interesting case of investment is the MLA Local Area Development Fund in Manipur. The Honourable Chief Minister of Manipur who is also Minister of Finance could express his satisfaction and said, in his Budget speech:


“I am happy to inform the Honourable Members that the MLA’s Local Area Development Fund has been raised to Rs 1 crore for each MLA from Rs. 75 Lakh in the previous year. I hope the increased allocation will enable the Honourable Members to take up greater number of Constituency-specific development works” (page 7, Budget Speech, July 2014).

Yes, MLA Local Area Development Fund is important, but more important is the way the fund is utilized; and it must be guided by the standard of outcome.

1.      Did the Honourable Chief Minister of Manipur make an attempt to get an Assessment Report of the Funds used in the past?

2.      How do we address the intra-constituency development constraints?

3.      Is there any visible understanding between the MLAs to achieve a Common Goal? Do MLAs in Manipur have a vision of their own constituency? What do they really like?

4.      What could be our guiding principle, either Expediency or Efficiency?

Let’s recall the hard fact of demoralizing experience of Mounting Rural Poverty (40 per cent) and Rising Unemployment in rural areas. Is it not rational and necessary to pay priority attention to the establishment of Production-cum-Training Centres, --- at least one in a constituency to achieve the twin objectives of Employment and Skill Development? Within 5 years Manipur can have 60 such Centres with Rs. 300 crore. Is it not a better Investment Plan?

In China and Korea Village Economic Enterprises did miracles. Production was stepped up. Work culture could improve tremendously. Economic security could be ensured through Employment, Participation and Involvement.

Investment of Rs. 60 crore a year in Manipur without any specific objective and vision may have destabilizing effect. Because “ money which is a source of blessings to mankind becomes a source of peril and confusion unless it is controlled”. Easy money creates havoc.

Well, to-day the Community Halls, constructed under the MLA Local Area Development Fund, stand empty without any productive activity. What about the change in Community Life? How far the colourful Community Halls have changed the Community Mind, Community Outlook and Community Temptation? If there are no signs of change, what is the meaning of Big Community Halls?  

At best, it could be a luxury in the island of poverty. Our issue is the disturbing Culture of Poverty, not merely the problem of poverty. The workshops and work sheds are temples of the poor. The Training – cum- Production Centres in the remote areas could be a much better option of investment. The empty community halls convey empty messages. Is it not a nice case of gross misuse of scarce resources?

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