A MIXED BAG As the Kejriwal government completes three years in office, it has to fulfil several unkept promises and ensure a steady pace of development
NEWDELHI: In 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) slogan ‘paanch saal Kejriwal’ found such resonance in Delhi that the party ended up rewriting electoral history by winning 67 of the 70 assembly seats.
AJAY AGGARWAL/HT FILE PHOTOn The Aam Aadmi Party stormed to power in 2015, winning 67 of the 70 assembly seats in Delhi.As the party completes three years in power on Wednesday, the new slogan is ‘everything is possible’.
But, the AAP government, which had an eventful run in the Delhi Secretariat, has now learnt that everything may not be possible.
By sticking to measures such as cheap power and free water (up to 20 kilolitres a month) and implement the odd-even car rationing plan, the AAP has shown that it does not necessarily lack political will but often gets more busy in politics than implementation. The government has shown a lack of planning and application in checking pollution and strengthening the public transport system. It struggled to add a single bus to the DTC fleet and drew flak for knee-jerk proposals such as cloud seeding and water dispersal through helicopters. Other ideas, such as setting up its own power plant and giving people the choice of their power supplier, were junked since they were not doable.
Having crossed the halfway mark, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said governance in Delhi is now on the “fourth gear”. “Our main projects have been streamlined and approvals have been taken. Now, the stage is set for implementation. People will see results in next two years,” Sisodia said in an interview to Hindustan Times on January 23.
With its Mohalla Clinic health scheme and focus and investment in education, the AAP government did well on two fronts. But now, as it plans to implement its plans doorstep delivery of various services, installing CCTVs, and meeting the target of buying 10,000 buses for DTC as its next big targets, there are questions on whether it can walk the talk on these diverse targets in areas where it does not have a good track record.
Here is a look at the successes and failures of the AAP government in the past three years:
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Risking public anger, the government went ahead with the odd-even scheme. Experts, however, described it as shortterm measure with little impact. Other ideas to tackle pollution, such as cloudseeding and sprinkling water from choppers were described as unnecessary.
According to environmentalist and EPCA member Sunita Narain, the actions taken by the government to combat air pollution were only temporary.
“Whatever actions that were taken were on the directions of the EPCA and these were short-term measures. Little has been done to improve public transport which is the key long-term solution to control air pollution,” she said.
The government has promised to bring 3,000 buses by the end of this year, which includes 2,000 non-AC standard floor buses and 1,000 electric buses. But, this would still not fulfil the target of at least 10,000 buses by December — a measure on which it has fallen woefully short.
The Mohalla Clinic scheme has been appreciated by the likes of Kofi Annan, former secretary general of United Nations and Gro Harlem Brundtland, former director-general of World Health Organisation, as a move towards achieving better health coverage.
The government had planned to set up 1,000 clinics in Delhi – one in every 5km radius – but the expansion plans are crawling for the want of land from various agencies. Only 160 clinics are operational now.
“Urban primary healthcare is often a neglected subject, leading to people going to hospitals for minor ailments. This results in time loss for the patient and improper utilisation of hospital resources. Such neighbourhood clinics will also help in early detection and management of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. It will reduce the need for quacks among low-income communities,” said Dr K Srinath Reddy, the president of Public Health Foundation of India.
The government is also providing free surgeries and radio-diagnosis tests at empanelled private centres, if the service is unavailable or the waiting period is long at Delhi government hospitals.
ROAD AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Narain and other experts say the AAP government has failed to redesign 10 roads and create infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. “It is high time that the government approaches Delhi’s mobility system differently,” she said.
The government, however, qassured that a progress report will be ready by next month. “We have five projects lined up for completion within the next one year. This includes second phase of Barapullah, Janakpuri flyover and ITO Skywalk,” a government spokesperson said.
Praveen Rai, a political analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), said, “Roads need immediate attention. They are bumpy, uneven and full of potholes,” he said.
Even though e-district services have started, applicants are still required to visit the office for verification of documents. Moreover, despite services being available online, majority of people still visit the SDM’s office due to lack of awareness. But the government hopes that its doorstep delivery of 40 services will improve the situation.
“A high priority agenda needs to be radical transparency in civic works and budgets at a street, mohalla and ward level, powered by GIS technology and mobile apps. This will build trust with citizens, make budgetary allocations fairer between neighbourhoods in the city and eventually ensure all citizens have a voice in budgets and get access to basic minimum quality of life,” said Srikanth Vishwanathan, CEO of the Janaagraha, an NGO.
Last year, education minister Sisodia had said that they had looked at infrastructure in the first year, and teacher training in their second, and in their third year, their focus would be on creative learning methods. In its 2017-18 budget, the government allocated ₹11,300 crore, almost a quarter of its budget, to the education sector alone, to build 10,000 new classrooms and 400 new libraries among other things.
Educationists praised the newfound emphasis given to education, especially public education. But they expressed concerns over a few government programmes. Poonam Batra, a professor of education at the Delhi University and a member of last year’s teacher recruitment committee, appreciated the mentor teacher system, and the additional clerical support offered by retired personnel at government schools.
“It would require some systematic research to determine the kind of work they have done in these years… While a lot of it is good, certain policies and pedagogical changes are not OK. The streamlining of students into different groups (based on their academic progress) is a regressive step,” she said.
Atishi Marlena, the advisor to Sisodia, said, “We have focused on quality this year. The learning gaps were too huge, and we are developing better material to address this. We have also taken note of the importance of mental and emotional health of the students, which is why we introduced the happiness curriculum,” she said.
Jyoti Sharma, water conservationist and president of NGO, Force, said the government’s efforts could be seen in the slums. “The free water scheme, despite its negatives, takes care of the availability issue. Rainwater harvesting and reviving water bodies were good initiatives but were not sustained,” Sharma said.
A government spokesperson said the CM was personally monitoring projects like providing water and sewer lines in unauthorised colonies and setting up mini-decentralised sewage treatment plants in all such colonies.
The ‘Maili Se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’ has been marred by inordinate delays. Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, said, “Despite a clear roadmap set by NGT, the state has failed abysmally to implement any if its directions be it on reigning in pollution or safeguarding Yamuna’s floodplains.”