To many enthusiasts of newness, the Aam Aadmi Party was as “new” as it gets when it emerged from the Jan Lokpal movement. Newness, indeed, was what defined its fast, two-stage journey to power in Delhi. Opting out after 49 days of the first chance, when they rode to power demolishing Sheila Dikshit’s 15-year reign, AAP promised “Paanch Saal Kejriwal” (Five Years to Kejriwal) and returned to the Delhi Assembly with a near-sweep at the hustings. A year later, the newness has faded, as newness is wont to.
“At least the water situation has improved,” says an autorickshaw driver living in one of the more parched areas of Sarita Vihar in southeast Delhi. “Water tankers come regularly nowadays. It was very erratic before Kejriwal became chief minister.”
To middle-class households, used to running water in their taps most of the time, it might be a little difficult to grasp what a regular water tanker means to people living in low-income neighbourhoods. Because the idea that water is time and therefore money is very down-market, understood only from the midst of those for whom water enough to drink, cook, bathe and clean clothes means investing time, waiting in queues to fill one’s pots. And where wages are low, availability of time decides chances of survival. Because the hours you save from collecting water might enable you to work and earn a little more that could mean all the difference between life and death.
Experiments With Governance Delhi Dialogue Commission
By Nizam Chemmad
What is it? First of its kind advisory group to the Delhi government
Inception 27 February 2015
Members Nine, Vice-Chairman Ashish Khetan
Issues picked Women safety, education, energy and electricity, health, sanitation and solid waste management, transportation and water
♦ Held free and transparent consultations on draft Bills with stakeholders and general public both online and offline
♦ Uploaded copies of draft Bills online for public consultation
♦ Drafted Women’s Right Bill giving more administrative power to Delhi Commission for Women (DCW)
♦ Drafted Delhi Health Bill which entails strict regulation of all hospitals in the national capital and warns of stringent action in case of patient refusal
♦ Drafted Solar Energy policy proposing 1000 megawatt solar power capacity for Delhi in next five years
♦ Fallout: One way process of communication, refusal to entertain calls from media
In the pipeline
♦ Sanitation Improvement Plan for Aya Nagar
♦ AAP Canteen on the model of Amma canteens in Tamil Nadu
Any surprises, then, that despite all the criticism from so many quarters, Delhi’s poorest continue to have more praise than abuse for one year of Kejriwal. But what happened to the main plank of an organisation that had started out as India’s “most honest” anti-corruption party? Let’s go again to the autorickshaw drivers, who are the most prevalent media image of AAP’s support base.
“It took me five visits to the ration card office in Burari before I had a card in my hand,” says one, talking about one common interface between citizens and officialdom. “And the fifth time, I had to cough up 100 to fetch the document.” His autorickshaw stuck in slow-moving traffic, he immediately turns the talk to the benefits of Odd-Even, Kejriwal’s latest ‘experimental’ gift to Delhi. He must be pleased now that Kejriwal has announced the scheme would be back on 15 April.
When Arvind Kejriwal government completed one year on 13 February, one thing was certain: it was one year of the most controversial state government in India today. From arrests of party MLAs to constant tussle with the central government, from alleged “false propaganda” against its own party members to saying the country’s finance minister doesn’t “have a public reputation” — they have seen it all.
Nevertheless, the sweeping victory last February not only halted the Modi juggernaut but also raised the hopes of Delhi’s electorate like nothing before. And that is both a bane and a boon for AAP.
The pilot phase of the Odd-Even formula — road rationing — fared well. Parts of the city that topped the list of most polluted areas of the country dropped down to Nos. 6, 7 and 8 spots on the 13th day. Announcing the second phase of the scheme, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “We didn’t want to implement Odd-Even without consulting the people of Delhi; 81 percent of Delhiites have extended their support.”
A Fresh Start Education
By Ajmal Aramam
AAP Mantra: Equal and quality education for all
♦ Allocated Rs 9,836 crore, 106 percent increase from last year’s budget
♦ Three education Bills passed in winter session
♦ Directs private schools to ensure 25 percent seat reservation for EWS
♦ Scrapping of management quotas in private schools (later stayed by Delhi High Court) Loan provision of Rs 10 lakh for higher education aspirants
♦ Infrastructural improvement of govt. schools — installation of CCTV cameras, cleanliness
♦ New admission guidelines have reduced discretionary powers of private schools say experts
♦ Lack of effective mechanism to screen admission procedures, intake criterion etc
♦ Proposal to reconstitute governing body of DU colleges (those funded by the government) without proper deliberation. Violation of DU election norms during campaign.
“It would’ve been better if the government improves existing schools rather than opening 500 schools” – Dinesh Bhat, trader
The consultation on the scheme not only resulted in garnering public support for the anti-pollution move but also facilitated dialogue between the government and citizens, something which had been missing until then. Responses were sought through 276 mohalla sabhas and only one went against the move; over 1 lakh responses came through missed calls and 10 lakh via IVR (interactive voice response) calls. The government spent Rs 12 crore on the workforce and advertisement campaign in this phase, says a source in the Delhi Secretariat.
Interestingly, it seems controversies surrounding the first phase, such as bashing on social media over misleading pictures of an overcrowded Rajiv Chowk Metro station and criticism by the state BJP unit, worked in favour of the government. Also, to change the state of public transport and traffic in the national capital, the government is planning to come up with ambitious elevated BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) corridors. “We are planning to come up with elevated BRT corridors — one for buses, the other for cars. This will mean that our buses will move like the Metro does,” Kejriwal told the media.