Misuse of MLA Funds: Who’s to blame? — By PATRICIA MUKHIM


Allegations of misuse of MLA funds by Shillong South legislator Sanbor Shullai amounting to roughly Rs 4.23 crore and that the bulk of payments are made to a firm in Sohra is not even surprising. If an RTI is done for each of the 60 MLAs the skeletons will come tumbling out. MLA funds are meant to be used to create community assets such as roads, footpaths, community halls, water supply and to augment what departments like PWD and PHE have fallen short of. MLA funds are not meant to distribute dinner sets and pots and pans or chairs and tarpaulins. These are all inducements for votes. It is learnt that nearly all MLAs use about 70% of their MLA funds to purchase CGI sheets. How those are distributed is not recorded. Clearly there is a scam here that needs to be unearthed.

The MLA scheme has become a clever ploy for a sitting MLA to buy votes on the 5th year of his/her tenure. The fact that the electorate is so easily bought by such inducements is pathetic to say the least. But it also informs us that the voters too have slipped into this easy unquestioning mode of playing along with the charade. Rs 600 crore of public money is thus spent arbitrarily by an MLA without any accountability. A good chunk of that money is perhaps siphoned off to the MLA's private projects such as residential complexes. There are quite a few of such MLAs whose wealth ranking has gone up exponentially in the last ten years although they have no businesses to show for. And here it is the unquestioning voters who are collaborating in the theft of public money.

That someone has done an RTI on one MLA and the answers have exposed the extent of the scam should prompt all other RTI activists in different constituencies to also go after their MLAs. Actually each of the MLAs should, without being asked for it, given their constituents a report card. Late Mr TH Rangad and Mr Ardhendu Chaudhuri both had given their constituents and all interested people a detailed account of how their MLA funds were spent in the form of a booklet, down to the last rupee. If they could do it why not the rest, unless they have something to hide! After these two noble souls left this earth no other MLA even tried to follow in their footsteps although they all profess their innocence.

The fact is that MLAs don't understand why they have been elected. Their brief is to make enlightened laws that will benefit not just their constituents but the state as a whole. They are not constituency leaders; they are state leaders for goodness sakes! But the burden of nurturing a constituency so they can ride back to power has destroyed every fibre of democracy. It defeats the very purpose of elections because we are not electing lawmakers but social activists who have the wherewithal to provide us water tankers when someone in our family marries or there is a death in a particular home.  We believe the MLA owes us money to pay for hospital bills and for our children's school fees. Now isn't that extortion? It is futile to blame the MLA when the fault lies somewhere else. And then those who have benefited from the MLA funds are unlikely to blow the whistle. So the sleaze continues. Let's own up to the fact that we are all conniving in keeping the state and its people at subsistence level! Lets us stop blaming the Centre or the non-tribal or the MLA. A corrupt electorate deserves a corrupt government for we get the government we deserve!

-The writer is Editor of The Shillong Times and she can be reached via e-mail at patricia.mukhim@gmail.com