What is significant about development in India is that it is not enough to have the requisite funds for development. The elected representatives of the people have to be seen as being the sole instruments of development. This impression is sought to be achieved by having the MLA’s Local Area Development (MLA-LAD) Scheme, whereby Rs 1 crore is released to each of the 126 MLAs of the State for development work in their respective constituencies. Most political observers realize that this may not be the most efficient or honest way of ensuring development in the State. After all, effective and judicious use of public funds for development is unlikely to be a simple matter for all elected representatives of the State (especially those elected for the first time) who have no prior experience of handling such funds for the greatest good of the greatest number. As such, the objective of development may perhaps be better achieved by an assessment of the areas of the State that are most backward and more in need of development than most of the other areas. A fixed allocation of Rs 1 crore to each MLA (regardless of the level of development in his/her constituency) cannot be regarded as the best possible or even a fair means of achieving development in the State. We would therefore like to submit that the Fince and the Transformation and Development (earlier known as Planning and Development) departments should reassess their norms for allocation of funds to MLAs of different constituencies. Instead of having the same flat rate for all the MLAs, it would serve the needs of development much better if the allocation of funds was determined by the backwardness and desperate need of different constituencies. Unfortutely, it has become difficult to arrive at any just means of allocating development funds largely because of the total lack of openness about the allocation of such funds. Had these two key departments of the Assam government been a little more open about the urgent needs of different constituencies of the State, they could have drawn on the experience, knowledge and expertise of both seasoned politicians and bureaucrats to arrive at more ratiol and just norms of fund allocation.
At the moment, the mode of fund allocation by the government has to be determined more by the availability of funds than by considerations of what is more ratiol or just in terms of deficient development or a total lack of development. A few months back, the State government had decided that funds would be released by the two aforesaid departments only to those MLAs who had utilized at least 70 per cent of the total funds earmarked for the overall schemes in their respective areas under the MLA-LAD in 2016-17. This was a ratiol approach for deciding whether the MLAs deserved the funds and whether they were in a position to utilize the funds within the stipulated time frame. About 60 MLAs had met the stipulated criteria. But funds have not been released even to these MLAs by the two aforesaid departments. In the ultimate alysis, one has to judge the performance of our MLAs on the basis of the time available to them within reach to make the effective and judicious use development funds allocated to them. There are many MLAs who are yet to receive development funds even though there are only about three-and-a-half months of the fincial year 2017-18 in which to utilize the funds. While the government’s policy of allocating funds to MLAs who were able to utilize at least 70 per cent of the funds they had received in the last fiscal year, seems a ratiol approach to the distribution of funds, the fact remains that regardless of past performance, MLAs would have a very tough time utilizing development funds properly if they were received only about three months before the end of the fiscal year. This is an important determiner of performance. After all, what can an MLA achieve in terms of development in a little more than three months—even with funds?