The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi completes a month in office on Saturday. Hindustan Times caught up with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and other five ministers on Friday to find out his views on the government’s achievements thus far and the challenges ahead.
1. Government's focus will be on technology to curb graft: Manish Sisodia
How has been your experience so far? What do you think is your biggest achievement?
I think the decision related to the power and water subsidies has been the biggest achievement of the government as it helps the poor. My experience in office so far has been very good and we hope to continue working like this in the future too.
The government has taken decisions related to poor but issues such as the anti-corruption helpline and full statehood has not yet been taken up?
We are reviewing the anticorruption helpline and will relaunch it once Arvind Kejriwal returns from Bengaluru. The executives are being trained to handle calls. We are also discussing the issue of full statehood with the Centre.
How is government going to curb corruption in various departments?
Our focus will be on technology to curb corruption. Various certificates, such as caste and birth, issued by the Delhi government will be made online by April 1. The government has already put stamp vendor licences online from February 23. The government is making changes in the license process of public distribution system shops by introducing a temporary licensing facility. Ration cards can now be applied for and obtained online so that people can take a simple printout instead of having to bribe officials for their cards.
Women safety was one of the major poll promises. What is the government’s plan to ensure safety of women?
We have asked Delhi Police to provide us with a list of dark spots. Once we get the list, women safety squads will be deployed in those areas. The merger of homeguard and civil defence members is on cards. To start with, marshals are being deployed in all DTC buses from 6pm to 12 midnight.
The government had promised a lot for the traders. How are you planning to bring about a more business friendly environment?
In the cabinet meeting today (on Friday), we have approved the amendment to VAT (Value Added Tax) Act to allow the carry forward of input tax credit for traders. This demand had been raised in past and we decided to review it. Traders in the national capital were forced to claim refund before the end of each financial year but once the amendment is passed in the assembly, it will allow the traders to carry forward their credit for the successive financial years.
2. Task cut out for transport minister Gopal Rai
Gopal Rai, the government’s 38-year-old minister of transport, has garnered praise for his initiatives to bring e-rickshaws back on the roads of the city. The road ahead for him, however, continues to be dotted with challenges.
Rai’s office held 13 camps all over the city in the last month to issue learners’ licences to e-rickshaw drivers.
The biggest challenge that faces Rai and his government is to avoid the emergence of an e-rickshaw cartel. Though his department has adopted a policy to prevent e-rickshaw drivers from owning more than one vehicle, a holistic plan still needs to be drawn up.
Among the other pending projects, are promises of increasing the number and frequency of DTC buses across routes. The government has plans to procure around 4,000 DTC buses.
3. Tough road ahead for Sandeep Kumar
The challenges that lie ahead for women and child development minister Sandeep Kumar, who is also the social welfare minister, are substantial.
As the minister for women and child development, the Sultanpur Majra MLA has to improve the condition of women and children’s shelter homes across the city, where stories of neglect and abuse abound. Kumar will have to improve the functioning of the Integrated Child Development Scheme, which is running projects to provide free school education, immunization, health check-up, supplementary nutrition to children up to 6 years.
The minister has already started working on the task of getting senior citizens their pensions and improving the conditions of anganwadi centres.
Kumar also needs to start working on the promise of doubling de-addiction centres and providing counseling.
4. Govt will encourage public to use solar panels: Satyender Jain
The Delhi government has reduced the power bill by half and is planning to come up with a ‘white paper’ on power. Hindustan Times spoke to the power minister to find out government’s other plans for the power sector.
What is government doing to improve the power infrastructure?
We want to make Delhi self dependent on power and for this we need to generate power. Delhi’s power demand will cross 6,000 MW and we have written to central government to establish pit-head power plant which can generate at least 4,000MW. We are also focusing on solar panels and will encourage public for it.
Summer is approaching, how the government is going to ensure 24/7 power supply?
We have promised for 24/7 power supply and will do that. Companies (discoms) have submitted the summer action plan and we will study it.
According to companies they are prepared and there will be o problem in summer. But we had seen what happen in last summer and we do not want a repeat of it.
How are you going to improve the road infrastructure of the capital?
We have conducted a survey of PWD roads and found that many of them are in bad condition. PWD has a network of 1200 km and they are facing design problems, encroachment and are also damaged. We will make Delhi roads congestion and dust free. We will also beautify the PWD roads.
5. Women safety, fast-track courts focus areas for now: Jitendra Singh Tomar
Delhi government’s law minister Jitendra Singh Tomar, who also holds the home, tourism, arts and culture portfolio, talks to HT about his vision for the future.
How do you rate the performance so far? What will be your priority in the coming months?
We have reviewed pending projects and expedited works. Our focus will be women security and very soon marshals will be placed on buses.
But what about fast-track courts for dealing with cases of crimes against women?
We have started the work in that regard too and have written to the deputy commissioners to identify locations near existing courts. 47 fast-track courts will come up in five years.
Tourists often come to Delhi and then go to nearby cities instead of spending time here. What is the govt doing about that?
We will make the city a tourist attraction by initiating several projects like a water sports complex between Chhawla and Kanganheri in west Delhi.
Environment minister Asim Ahmed Khan says he has taken several steps to improve Delhi’s air quality, and a more comprehensive strategy will be put in place at the earliest. Excerpts:
Delhi’s air is getting deadlier by the day. What have you done about it in the last one month?
We have been very serious about tackling the problem of air pollution. We have conducted surprise checks to discourage open burning of waste.
What’s your future strategy?
We conducted 66 surprise checks at pollution testing centres, out of which 18 were found to be not working properly, 170 challans of overloaded vehicles were issued. We’re going to step up the crackdown.