It’s been a busy eleventh year for CM | delhi | Hindustan Times
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It’s been a busy eleventh year for CM

The chief minister says her government has been partially successful in executing its third-term agenda. A reality check...

delhi Updated: Dec 17, 2009 23:46 IST
Anuradha Mukherjee

Statehood
New Delhi: Full statehood is a longstanding demand of Delhi’s political parties. So it was a deviation of sorts when ahead of releasing its 2008 poll manifesto, Congress sources indicated for the first time that the party might press for more practical powers like control over the civic bodies. Soon after being elected the chief minister for the third time, Sheila Dikshit, in her first interview to a newspaper, told Hindustan Times that she wanted to take over MCD and end multiplicity of authorities.

Dikshit said on November 17, 2008 that the government “had learnt from experience” that granting full statehood to a city like Delhi was impossible. There was talk of according Delhi special status since full statehood was difficult, given the fact that vital national and security installations were located here.

However, even the bid for making MCD answerable to Delhi government is proving to be not so easy.

Hikes and finances
New Delhi: The government started the year on a sombre note — speaking of the necessity for improving dipping revenue collections. After nearly five years, Delhiites had to loosen purse strings for DTC and Metro fare hikes, increased water and power charges and now increased VAT rates.

Having spent Rs 10,500 crore from the small savings loans allocation in 2008 alone, Delhi government is running in deficit of Rs 23,000 crore. Delhi Finance Minister AK Walia had asked for curbing wasteful expenses and a committee to assess the cost of all projects was set up after he objected to the expenditure on some of them.

Asked how he planned to manage Delhi’s budget in the face of mounting expenses, Walia said the government’s focus was trying to keep the city out of the ‘debt trap’.

“We are trying to control further debts. We are already paying a lot of interest on older debts.’

Transport
New Delhi: Induction of more low-floor buses, including several AC ones, in DTC’s fleet has strengthened the public transport system. DTC now has a fleet of 1,000 low-floor buses. By March 2010, it will have 3,775 low-floor buses, including 1,500 AC buses. The gradual phase-out of Bluelines at the same time has helped in rebuilding people’s faith in bus transport. The inauguration of Dwarka Circular Sewa, a shuttle service for Dwarka, and Yamuna Mudrika for East Delhi have catered to the long standing demand of residents of these areas for a reliable public transport system.

Introduction of automatic fare collection system in six buses on Dwarka circular route is a first step towards modernisation of public transport.

Converting auto-rickshaw permits into smart cards, which are being issued only to the genuine permit holders, is a step to break the control of financier mafia.

Challenges — following incidents of fire, maintenance of low-floor buses is a big challenge. Implementation of automatic fare collection on all DTC buses and its integration with the Metro is also a big task too.

Infrastructure
New Delhi: Working on 21 infrastructure projects in the run up to the Commonwealth Games, the Delhi government opened 12 new flyovers and underpasses in 2009. The three flyovers on Outer Ring Road, between IIT Gate and National Highway 8, have eased traffic flow.

Three flyovers in east Delhi, the grade separator at ITO Chungi to make this intersection signal free, and two flyovers at Shastri Nagar and Raja Ram Kohli Marg have reduced the drive duration from Mayur Vihar and Laxmi Nagar to Old Delhi to just 15 minutes.

The Dikshit government also introduced three new technologies — recycling, plastic mix and micro-surfacing — to repair and re-carpet roads in Delhi.

Several new footbridges have also come up on various arterial roads.

Challenges — completing two important infrastructure projects in time: the Barapulla elevated road connecting Commonwealth Games Village with Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, and Ring Road Bypass, both of which are crucial from the Games point of view, is a big challenge.

The big challenge
New Delhi: Delhi is the venue of Commonwealth Games 2010 and the city government is the official host, even if the show is being handled by a gaggle of authorities.

The Delhi government is spending more than Rs 15,000 crore on road improvement projects, flyovers and other infrastructure upgrades, including improvement of two stadiums –Thyagaraja and Chattarsal.

More than anything else, the event is a prestige issue. Since most of the projects are lagging behind, completing on time will be a test of nerves.

Dikshit, however, asserted that most infrastructural work would be over by March 2010, while other major projects would be ready at least four months before the Games.

The government painted a rosy picture of Games preparation in a reply to the Delhi Assembly. It was claimed that only Chattarsal Stadium and Talkatora Indoor Stadium, that were supposed to be completed by December 2009, and Shivaji Stadium (March 2010 deadline) were seriously running behind schedule.

Plastic ban
New Delhi: The government took credit for banning plastic bags in Delhi but actually it was a Public Interest Litigation that brought about a plastic ban in the Capital. The Dikshit government was but a mere implementer of a high court order directing the ban.

The government was, in fact, reluctant to enforce a ban on plastic bags. It sat on the high court order for close to five months before it was forced to implement. The court had ordered the Delhi government to ban plastic bags in August 2008.

But it brought the ban only in January 2009 after the petitioner of the PIL threatened to move a Contempt of Court motion.

Even after banning plastic bags, the government’s enforcement of the same has been abysmal, with a handful of token enforcement drives in marketplaces. Of late, the Environment Department has swung into action, directing all civic agencies to raid retail and wholesale markets of plastic bags.

Power
New Delhi: In June, Delhiites suffered power cuts lasting six to 10 hours, every day. There were power cuts in the night, evening, and afternoon, in east, south, west, and central Delhi areas. But the discoms, BSES Yamuna for east and BSES Rajdhani for the rest of the areas, kept denying that power cuts were that long.

People in several parts of the city took to protests — beating up discom officials, attacking their local offices, holding up traffic on national highways etc. The government stepped in after several days of watching from the sidelines, as Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit directed the discoms to arrange power at any cost. She also met residents’ representatives and made discom officials give out schedules of cuts.

Although the government made the right noise, nothing changed. The discoms managed to convince the government that there was a genuine scarcity of power.