AAP has given schools, clinics, water, power to all: Delhi deputy CM Sisodia | delhi | Hindustan Times
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AAP has given schools, clinics, water, power to all: Delhi deputy CM Sisodia

Facing civic strikes and a broken relationship with the L-G, it hasn’t been an easy two years for the AAP government. But deputy CM Manish Sisodia, in an interview with the Hindustan Times, points to their delivery on amenities and asks Delhi to focus on the positives

MCD Elections 2017 Updated: Mar 21, 2017 17:25 IST
Faizan Haidar and Sweta Goswami
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia at his residence in New Delhi. Sisodia says that sanitation should come under Delhi government.
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia at his residence in New Delhi. Sisodia says that sanitation should come under Delhi government. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)

When the Aam Aadmi Party stormed into power with 67 out of 70 seats in 2015, Arvind Kejriwal’s thumping mandate was meant to translate into smooth governance for the Capital. Over the last two years, facing civic strikes and a broken relationship with the L-G’s office over control of the city, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan.

In an exclusive interview, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia talks about the successes and failures, pointing to strides taken on education, healthcare, water and electricity. He asks citizens to focus on the positives and says that the relationship with the L-G’s office is getting better with the exit of Najeeb Jung and the entry of Anil Baijal.

Two years into power, you face your first big test in the MCD elections. What are your big poll ideas?

We have to stop corruption in MCD. The civic bodies are full of ghost employees. The MCD officers and politicians are gaining while workers are being exploited. We want to improve the lives of the sanitation workers by decentralising the system and making sanitation inspectors accountable.

For approval of building plans, we will put up templates on the website. If you choose from the given options, you will not require approval. We will incentivise payment of property tax.

Will MCD elections be a referendum on your government?

Every election is a referendum in that way. Sanitation is something which needs to come to us. We have the key to (resolve) sanitation issues in Delhi. We will transform Delhi into a clean city

AAP had promised to turn Delhi into a world-class city in its manifesto. Where do you stand on this promise?

Shining roads or buildings are not the foundations of a world-class city. It begins with shining schools, a shining health system, proper water and power supply to all. We have been able to achieve this in the last two years.

What are your biggest achievements?

People now confidently pay their power bills, much less than what they used to pay, without the fear of being overcharged. We have ensured a crackdown on the water tanker mafia and are giving free water.

Besides, I am personally working on a project where residents of several colonies will get clean drinking water straight from their taps. Our government will guarantee that the water is totally clean and safe to drink.

Again, a world-class city is not about infrastructure only. It is about citizenship. The poor are confident of sending their children to school. Even those who can afford decent education for their children are confident that ‘my government is working for my kid’s education’ and no private school can deny a child admission.

We have built a world-class skill centre where after passing out of Class 12, the youth are learning skills for a year and getting jobs of Rs 6-7 lakh per annum at multi-national companies.

In the health sector, Mohalla Clinics are a shining example of a world-class city. Everybody is guaranteed free medicines at government hospitals.

Six slum camps have been shifted without any hue and cry. Slum dwellers have broken their own hutments and moved on. No demolition took place. We are gradually moving towards making Delhi a slum-free city.

Which areas of governance remain a concern?

(Getting) buses (for Delhi) is one thing that has not happened as per our expectations. It got caught up in bureaucratic hurdles. I won’t blame anyone, but officers who are being put (on the job) are not able to handle work properly. The services department is not with us, which is a problem. This department is not for transfers and postings. It is meant to ensure efficiency in administration.

Hasn’t the situation changed since the new L-G took over?

Not really. As you can see, the officers are still where they are.

Which other projects have seen no progress?

Providing free Wi-Fi is one such issue. It is caught up in bureaucratic hurdles. Officers are being warned and terrorised that if you work on this project then you will be in a fix. The CBI will be at your doorstep. So they just don’t do anything.

The bus aggregator scheme got stuck in the same way. I was surprised that the project, which Union finance minister, Arun Jaitley, had praised in front of 10 finance ministers of other states at a meeting on GST, became a corruption issue four days later. He had appreciated it, saying this is the solution to transport and congestion problems. But, a few days later, a CBI inquiry was what we got.

The same happened with the Talk to AK campaign. The moment bureaucrats try working on innovative ideas, they are taken down (shifted). We are trying to work it out the safe way.

Has your relationship with the L-G changed after Anil Baijal took over?

I think it (the channel) is reopening. From all the discussions I have had with the L-G so far, it’s been a good experience. I am optimistic. It is just the beginning and I hope he will look at things from a different perspective.

If he has dreams for Delhi, he would work. If he has dreams for his chair.... if he keeps thinking about how to save the sanctity of his chair...not much will happen for the city (welfare).

Is he clearing files/proposals that you said were stuck during Najeeb Jung’s tenure?

Yes, he has cleared the names we suggested for the board of directors at the Indira Gandhi Delhi Technological University. A proposal to allow sportspersons to train at school grounds during after school hours, too, has been given go-ahead. A number of files were returned without any objection.

I am meeting the L-G at least once every week, sometimes even more frequently. We have had elaborate discussions on a parking policy for the city. Pollution and public transport were also discussed.

Read: Govt push puts schools back on learning curve

During Jung’s tenure, your government alleged interference by the Centre in city affairs. Has it reduced after Baijal’s appointment?

Time will tell. It won’t be fair to comment right now.

There is a view that the tussle between the AAP government and L-G office has been used as an excuse for slow governance. How would you respond to that?

There is a published opinion and there is public opinion. People understand whatever work has happened. They know that if we hadn’t fought, this work wouldn’t have happened. People understand the politics.

The government has not received the Shunglu Committee report yet. But, it’s with the media and that’s how I managed to see it. It states that the government did not send files to the L-G. But, that was our stand and we had made it clear in the beginning itself. This was the fight – we said we are the elected government, why should we (send files to L-G). The High Court said L-G is the administrative head. So, after HC’s August 4 order, we started sending all the files to him.

Read: Govt high on ideas on Delhi pollution but low on implementation

You announced some radical measures to clean Delhi’s air and remove road congestion but odd-even and car-free days stopped abruptly. Little was delivered on public transport.

Odd-even is not the ultimate solution
to the problem of pollution. It is a flood relief kind of a measure. In winters, pollution increases. This time crop burning was causing it (polluted air). So, at that point, odd-even wouldn’t have helped.

On the public transport front, some things were struck down. We wanted to reduce bus fares for a month so that bus travel becomes economical and more and more people could use it. But it got stuck too. The L-G (Jung) raised objections and then he left.

Car free was not successful since it did not get Delhi Police’s support.

So what is the solution to Delhi’s air pollution problem?

Air pollution requires a lasting solution. This city has some harsh realities. It is overpopulated and has developed in a haphazard manner. There is unorganised growth of industries. We have our enforcement teams which take action as and when required.

But in the longer run, we are working on curbing vehicular pollution though better governance. We are trying to encourage students and senior citizens to use public transport by giving free passes. We are in the favour of (running) medium-sized buses.

Most portfolios are divided between you and Satyendar Jain. Is it a democratic way of running the cabinet?

Basically, this is because there are departments which are inter-linked. If PWD, transport, urban development stay with the same minister then it is a healthy practice. I handle issues related to governance such as law and revenue because these departments should be with one minister.

Read: For Delhi’s unauthorised colonies, change only on paper

Will CM Arvind Kejriwal get more active in Delhi now that elections are over in Punjab and Goa?

Yes, of course. He is always active
here.