No govt department ready to take up AAP’s free Wi-Fi project
The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) three-year-old promise to provide free Wi-Fi across Delhi has failed to take off because no government department appears prepared to execute the plan, senior Public Works Department (PWD) officials said. The officer in-charge of the project has reportedly written to the PWD’s engineer-in-chief saying the department “does not have the expertise” to deliver the project.
Free Wi-Fi at public places across Delhi was one of AAP’s key poll promises in the run-up to the assembly elections.
In his budget speech on March 22, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had said the project, which was earlier with the information and technology (IT) department, was being given to the PWD to expedite the work.
A senior PWD official, who did not wish to be named, said, “The Wi-Fi project should be executed by the IT department as we lack expertise in carrying out such projects. We have conveyed this to the top department officials.”
“Yes, we have been discussing this (shortcomings in delivering the project). We have not yet communicated to the government if the project should be shifted to the IT department. Overall, we have to firm up our minds and then take a call on whether or not we will do it,” RK Agrawal, PWD’s engineer-in-chief.
After coming to power in 2015, the project was initially assigned to the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD). In March 2016, the DDCD started its first free Wi-Fi facility on a three-month pilot basis at Sant Nagar market in north Delhi. Then DDCD vice-chairperson promised to make 571 such locations as high-speed Wi-Fi zones. Till date there has been no progress.
Later, the project was handed over to the IT department.
Satyendar Jain and Kailash Gahlot — ministers of PWD and IT department — did not respond despite many calls and text messages seeking their comments.
Senior Delhi government officials, who did not wish to be named, said the lack of coordination between the three departments – IT, DDCD and PWD – has been affecting the project.
“The responsibility of free Wi-Fi scheme had been shifting departments for the last three years. This is the reason why this project has been left hanging,” said a government official.
The AAP, on the other hand, blamed lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal for orchestrating the delay. “This is being done on the directions of the L-G. Have you ever heard of any instance where any officer gives in writing that he cannot perform his work? If the officer cannot work, he should step down,” said AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj.
IT department secretary Sandeep Kumar said, “I have no information about the developments in this project as I have joined only a fortnight ago.”