We are in an election mode for all five years: Manish Sisodia on free services
Speaking on the Hindustan Times video show “Metro Matters”, Sisodia said, “We are in an election mode for all five years. And this is how elected representatives should be. They must always remember that they have to work for the people or they will get voted out in elections.”Updated: Aug 15, 2019 03:06 IST
“Those who have received less from nature ought to get more from the law,” Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said, quoting Arvind Kejriwal in response to the criticism that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s recent announcements to provide free power, WiFi and commutes to women were “election sops”.
Speaking on the Hindustan Times video show “Metro Matters”, Sisodia said, “We are in an election mode for all five years. And this is how elected representatives should be. They must always remember that they have to work for the people or they will get voted out in elections.”
The deputy CM added, “It was important for all sections of Delhi’s citizenry to stand with people who are deprived... and the AAP government’s duty is to fulfil their minimum requirements.”
On August 1, Kejriwal announced a 100% subsidy on electricity bills to those consuming a maximum of 200 units every month. For those consuming 201 to 400 units, the subsidy was revised to a maximum discount of Rs 800 on the bills.
Sisodia said that his government announced the free power scheme to help the poor, but it will also lead to savings. “We cannot say it constitutionally, but to live in Delhi, electricity is like a fundamental right. The intention of the scheme is to provide free electricity so that the poor can use bare minimum items such as two fans, a fridge, lights and maybe a television at their homes,” he said.
The deputy CM, who is also Delhi’s finance minister, said the free power scheme is a sort of readjustment of the existing subsidy. “There may be some implications on finances but that will also be because more people will want to come into the net of 200 units (which is when they will get a bill waiver).”
The scheme, he said, would also lead to power savings and reduce Delhi’s peak demand load, which at 7,400 MW this summer was the highest ever for the national capital. “If people start saving electricity to keep consumption within 200 units a month, the government too will have power in surplus. Right now, the cost purchase of power is higher than the cost of distribution.”
He said a similar experiment on water has yielded positive results. Under the Delhi government’s water subsidy, households using up to 20,000 litres of water a month don’t have to pay anything. “In the first year of the launch, the government’s collection from water bills went up by Rs 176 crore,” he said, adding those who were earlier using water through illegal means applied for metered connections to avail of the bill waiver. “At the same time, those who had connections started saving water to get into the free water net. We hope for similar results in power too,” he said.
Sisodia said the government’s plan to make bus and metro travel free for women would not only give them a safe transportation option but also open up new opportunities for them. “Making investments in public transport is a deliberate policy. If a public facility is free, it builds a sense of ownership among citizens,” he said.
But shouldn’t the government have fixed the city’s public transportation before rolling out the scheme? “It is a chicken and egg situation. You either motivate people to use public transport and then enhance the system or enhance the system and then motivate people to use it. This is an endless debate,” he said but agreed that public transport needed much improvement.
“It was a mess for years. New buses hadn’t been added. In 2015, when we started work on a war level, we faced some teething problems. There were court orders on tenders, some tenders failed. It took us almost three, three-and-half years to shape up things. Now things are on track. In the next year, at least 3,000 buses will be running on Delhi’s roads,” he said.
First Published: Aug 14, 2019 23:21 IST