Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal sought the help of commoners to root out corruption after he was sworn in as the Delhi chief minister at a packed Ramlila Maidan by Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.
Within a few hours of being sworn in, Delhi's new chief minister Arvind Kejriwal got down to organising the work set-up, and allocated bureaucrats to the six cabinet ministers.
Here's a lowdown on Kejriwal's team.
Crackdown on schools charging exorbitant fee, says Sisodia
Education minister Manish Sisodia has said the government crack down on private schools that are charging exorbitant fees and taking donations.
“My top priority is schools. They cannot be profit-making businesses as they are foundations of nation building. Our job is very critical right now because of ongoing nursery admissions. We will work to provide relief to parents and students.”
The education minister seemed happy with the recent nursery admission guidelines issued by the Lieutenant Governor and said the government would like to make it more transparent. “There are schools which charge exorbitant amounts; it needs to be regulated. Even the fee structure is arbitrary. We will seek details from them.”
He has already taken stock of school buildings whose construction plans have been cleared but work has not started. “There is land available for 104 government schools. Land is awaited for 95 more. Parents still don’t look at our schools as their first preference. We want to change this notion,” he said.
Sisodia, who is also in charge of the urban development department, said his focus was decentralisation of power and encourage self rule. “I personally worked on the concept of Swaraj. We will bring in a legislation to ensure it’s fully implemented.”
“I have only met officials of the education department. I have called a meeting of other departments to discuss the issue of unauthorised colonies,” he said.
Sisodia will also be looking after the public works department. The 41-year-old routed BJP’s Nakul Bhardwaj by 11,478 votes.
Women’s safety top priority: Birla
Women and child development minister Rakhi Birla (26) said making women feel safe was her top priority. To achieve this, said Birla, the government would start working on setting up an informal force comprising ex-servicemen to keep a watch in colonies.
“We know Delhi Police is not under our control but will work closely with them to check crimes against women. We will be holding frequent meetings with police officials,” said the youngest minister in the Kejriwal cabinet.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal earlier in the day, said he had already asked Birla to focus specially on women’s security. Birla, who will also be responsible for the social welfare department, said, “I met officials today to assess the situation and take stock of various schemes being run for street children and senior citizens. I will meet them again for a follow-up on Monday,” she said.
Despite no political experience, Birla emerged as a giant killer, defeating Congress stalwart and then PWD minister Raj Kumar Chauhan by a thumping margin of 10,585 votes.
Asked about the promises made by the party, she said, “Whatever we have said in our manifesto, we will implement; how and when is to be decided. I have taken charge and I am trying to understand the department.”
With safety and security becoming major concerns for people in Delhi after the December 16 gang-rape, the party proposed to set up a “Citizen’s Security Force” with special focus on safety of the elderly, women and children.
- Darpan Singh
Govt to review BRT mess in Delhi, says Saurabh Bhardwaj
Transport minister Saurabh Bhardwaj has said the government will review a high court order on the controversial bus rapid transit system (BRT) in Delhi.
“We will see what we as a government can do about it. We’re looking at all aspects. We will take a decision on it very soon,” he said.
The BRT, a dream project of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, had received a lot of public criticism because instead of easing traffic chaos it added to it.
Clad in casual clothes, the 34-year-old MLA from Greater Kailash said, “It’s too early to decide on priorities, but we do have certain plans and we’re working on them.”
Bhardwaj, who is also in charge of environment and food and supply, said, “We didn’t discuss environment issues today but any move we make will also address green concerns.”
Bhardwaj, an engineer who also has a law degree, defeated BJP’s Ajay Kumar Malhotra, son of BJP stalwart VK Malhotra, by more than 13,000 votes. He was earlier working with a private engineering firm.
“Today, I met officers of the departments I am in-charge of. I have sought all relevant details about ongoing projects. If need be, we will work even on Sundays,” he said.
The minister said he had also discussed with his officials -- Annashree -- another dream project of Dikshit, which provides `600 to the poor to purchase foodgrains. He said the government will take a call on its feasibility very soon.
- Darpan Singh
Contractual workers to get permanent status: Girish Soni
Employment minister Girish Soni has said his first priority will be to create jobs.
The 49-year-old MLA from Madipur said, “We are aghast to see despite its 15-year rule in Delhi, the Congress failed to create jobs for the youth.”
Reiterating AAP’s promise made in the party manifesto, he said, “All contractual labourers will be made permanent,” he said. There is a large workforce of contractual labourers engaged with various departments for the past many years but they are yet to be made permanent staffers and hence are denied the perks and salaries they deserve.”
Asked how much time the government will take to fulfill these promises, he said, “We will act swiftly.”
Soni, who also holds development, labour and SC/ST portfolios, said he was making separate plans for each department. “I will first understand the problems. On Monday, I am meeting department heads and will chalk out plans accordingly.”
He said labour was a key department because of rampant exploitation of the work force. Soni is one of the two Dalit faces in the cabinet. AAP had fielded 12 Dalit candidates and nine of them have won.
Soni, who studied till class XII, has been a social activist, worked for the party during protests against inflated water and power bills. He defeated BJP’s Kailash Sankla by 1,100 votes.
“I have just taken charge. Give me some time. I am making myself available to the people of Delhi in line with our party’s stand. I have asked the departments for a detailed presentation on ongoing schemes and future plans. I will study them,” he said.
- Neelam Pandey
New health minister gets cracking, visits hospitals
Health minister a (49) got down to business soon after taking charge. Jain visited several government hospitals to get first-hand information of their condition.
He interacted with the doctors, staff and patients, saying this was required before corrective measures were taken to set things right.
“In many hospitals, I found, there was shortage of beds. There is shortage of doctors in hospitals as well as dispensaries and recruitment of these staff will be our priority,” said Jain, who lives in Saraswati Vihar in a joint family.He added, “Medicines will be available in all dispensaries soon.” Jain had actively participated in Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal movement where he came in touch with Arvind Kejriwal.
An architect by profession, Jain used to work with the central public works department. He defeated Shyam Lal Garg of BJP by more than 7,000 votes in Shakur Basti. Jain has said he got fed up with the level of corruption in the department and had to quit his job.
Satyendra Jain, is from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh. He will look after the ministries of health, industries and gurdwara elections. He will be assisted by PK Panda, special commissioner (Trade and Taxes).
Jain, a well known social worker, helped Chitrakoot-based social organisation Drishti, working for visually impaired girls, with construction of the organisation’s building.
- Neelam Pandey
‘I want to understand the functioning of the law dept’
Law minister Somnath Bharti expressed concern over shortage of staff in the law department and said he would make an effort to address the problem.
A team of law department officials met him at 4 pm.
“We cater to a number of departments, vetting proposals, bills and cabinet notes and we only have two assistant legal advisors,” a senior official told him. A lot of infrastructure projects in Delhi are stuck because files do not move swiftly in the law department because of shortage of hands. “We have to deal with about 100 files, seeking legal advice from us, in a day,” another official told the minister.
The 39-year-old MLA from Malviya Nagar said, “I will look into all this. I want to first understand the functioning of the department so that we can take right decisions.”
He assured the officials that there will not be any witch-hunt. “Don’t be scared. Be at ease, be very comfortable. All my decisions will be very rational.”
Bharti did law after doing his masters in science from the IIT-Delhi.
He was also president of the IIT-Delhi alumni association.
“I will hold separate meetings with officials of other departments,” he said. Bharti is also in charge of administrative reforms, tourism, besides art and culture.
In the last government, former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit had kept tourism with her considering its importance ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
- Darpan Singh