From a nervous beginner in 1998 to a confident three-term chief minister in 2011, Sheila Dikshit has come a long way. With several infrastructure projects and development schemes already under her belt, she has a road map ready for the next three years. In an candid chat, Dikshit spoke about the challenges her government faces, safety of women in Delhi, corruption in the MCD and her government's plans. Excerpts:
Safety of women has become the biggest concern in Delhi. What can the Delhi government do about it?
It is the most worrying thing. Delhi has an assembly and a council of ministers. But we don't have the law and order. But whatever police need, stringent laws or any other assistance, we are willing to provide. It was time police became more active. It is the presence of police on the streets that can bring confidence among people … an engineer in a department or a bureaucrat in his office can't do it. There should be media campaigns on the dos and don'ts on safety. We have courses in self-defence in schools, which women should join.
After spending big money on the Commonwealth Games, the government found its coffers empty. It then increased VAT on several items; registration fee on vehicles was hiked, and liquor prices and circle rates went up. Should we expect more such announcements in the coming budget?
I can't tell you about the budget. But we now have a very good infrastructure in Delhi. Second phase of Metro will be complete soon. Now we have the opportunity — without having to raise taxes because our collections have gone up — to improve the system. Also we have to utilise the funds under the JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission scheme given by the Centre. We have to improve the standard of living … we have to improve the administrative system.
Third phase of Metro requires huge investment. How do you propose to fund it?
Development cannot stop. (But) I don't think we are short of funds. Delhi is a city, which is comfortable and economically buoyant. I don't think we should be worried.
The MCD says it does not have money to pay salaries, to repair roads. They say Delhi government is not giving them funds.
So? What about all that corruption that started there? What is happening to ghost employees they themselves brought out? Why is it that you give them ‘x' amount of money for a road or a foot-over bridge and it is not completed? Why don't you ask them?
They say they don't have funds to carry out any development work.
No, no, no. They have funds. They pay Rs2 crore to each councillor, which also goes hopefully for development. Two hundred and seventy two councillors multiplied by two — it makes it more than Rs500 crore. I want to ask this question through you: “You (MCD) have Rs2 crore for each councillor. All that money will not go in their pocket and hopefully it will be spent on development.
You are planning to levy betterment tax in NDMC areas, which will increase burden on citizens.
I don't think the council has passed that. It is true that the life of people living in NDMC areas is of much higher standards than anywhere else. People are expected to pay for this. But it has not been worked out as yet.
The infrastructure created for the Games has already started crumbling. Your own minister said Delhi was losing its sheen. What are you going to do for its maintenance?
I have not seen Delhi from his eyes. (But) We certainly have to take care of it. Departments involved in construction and upgradation of infrastructure have been instructed to look into it. I won't say it is picture perfect. Greens are not looking so green because the winter was so harsh.
Do you have any plans to have one nodal agency maintaining all infrastructure projects?
No, we can't have one department. There is no point having common maintenance department for all departments. All departments have their own maintenance teams. If it is DDA's flyover in shabby condition, they don't allow anyone else to do it. We just want to emphasise ‘make your maintenance divisions much more active than they are'.