It was rush hour like you’ve never seen before. A 7,000-strong crowd stormed the Delhi government’s first janata darbar in New Delhi on Saturday, bringing down security barricades and jostling with an outnumbered police force in their determination to meet chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was forced to beat a hasty retreat.
The chaos spilled over to the roads with ITO, Vikas Marg and Indraprastha flyover witnessing heavy traffic.
Half an hour into the event and with the situation spinning out of control, Kejriwal retreated to his room at the secretariat on the advice of the police. He appeared an hour later on a rooftop, telling the people he’d left to avoid a stampede-like situation and apologising for the “mismanagement”.
The people’s court — to be held daily from 9.30am to 11am — will now reconvene in four-to-five days at a bigger venue, “better organised and better managed”, the CM promised. His ministers stayed on to address the public’s grievances.
“Despite all the chaos, 2,582 grievances registered. Govt has started working on their redressal (sic),” Kejriwal later tweeted.
The Aam Aadmi Party had set out 1,500 chairs to accommodate the public. A helpdesk directed people to six ministers — Manish Sisodia, Somnath Bharti, Saurabha Bharadwaj, Rakhi Birla, Girish Soni and Satyender Jain (absent due to his mother’s funeral but represented by health ministry members) — according to the nature of their grievance. There were around 1,000 police personnel for crowd control.
But the public — including contractual workers, the disabled and women — were in a hurry to meet the CM and his team. As chaos descended and Kejriwal left, they protested. “My four-year-old daughter was crushed by a car. We have been running pillar to post to get our complaint registered. We are constantly turned away and this is our last resort. Even though she will not return to us, we want the culprits caught,” said Nirmala Singh of Mangolpuri.
A majority of the gathered populace comprised contractual workers from various government agencies. After hearing them out, labour minister Soni said, “This darbar shows how frustrated people have been with the previous government. We will definitely try and ensure minimum wages are transferred directly to the workers’ accounts. Other issues of employment are policy-related. They can’t be solved overnight and may require a few months.”
“I request the people to give me some time to address these issues. The response was overwhelming and we were not prepared to handle such a huge crowd. But I assure everyone that we will draft a report and get data from various employers soon and take action within a month’s time,” added Kejriwal.
Shrugging off his political rivals’ criticism of the fracas, he said the massive turnout only reflected people’s “faith” in his government.