Air pollution, ration on AAP government’s agenda for first six months
“The free bus ride for students just needs a cabinet approval, followed by a clearance from the Delhi Transport Corporation’s (DTC) board,” said Kailash Gahlot, who served as transport and environment minister in the previous cabinet.Updated: Feb 14, 2020 02:26 IST
The Aam Aadmi Party government will kick off its term by rolling out free bus rides to students, introducing a “deshbhakti” (patriotism) curriculum, doorstep delivery of ration, and mapping air pollution sources in real-time, according to three ministers in the outgoing cabinet who are set to be retained when the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal takes oath on Sunday at the Ramlila Maidan.
These four crucial schemes are part of a several measures that the new AAP government aims to implement in its first six months in office, the ministers said.
“After working intensively on improving its schools and hospitals and providing free water and power over the last five years, we are is now looking at quick deliverables -- augmenting public transport, offering free bus rides to students, getting real-time data on the sources of air pollution, and a ‘deshbhakti’ curriculum in schools,” Manish Sisodia, who is set to once again be sworn in as deputy CM, told HT on Thursday. Sisodia, who is credited with the makeover of government schools, may also retain the education portfolio.
Social welfare minister in the previous Cabinet, Rajendra Pal Gautam, said going by where the government had left off before the model code of conduct was enforced a month ahead of the February 8 elections, an old-age home to be opened in East Delhi’s Kanti Nagar may be the first order issued by the new regime.
“The free bus ride for students just needs a cabinet approval, followed by a clearance from the Delhi Transport Corporation’s (DTC) board,” said Kailash Gahlot, who served as transport and environment minister in the previous cabinet.
The AAP won a landslide victory in the elections, getting 62 of the 70 seats -- just five short of its record 67-seat tally in the 2015 assembly polls.
The government wants to get off the starting blocks quickly in its next stint, with focus on six key areas.
Sisodia said the first priority in this sector will be to introduce the patriotism curriculum in all government schools. Announcing the move on the eve of Independence Day in 2019, Kejriwal said that the curriculum would help build “a class of patriotic citizens”. It was also included in the AAP’s manifesto for the assembly elections.
“It is still not confirmed if the ministers will retain the same portfolios -- the CM will decide that. But, considering the works in the education department that were left at the edge before the elections were declared, I can say that the first thing which Delhiites will see is introduction of the Deshbhakti curriculum,” said Sisodia. The government is aiming to introduce this curriculum from the session which starts from April 1 itself, he said.
Sisodia said the establishing two universities – one for sports and another for skill development, will also be taken up on a “war footing”.
The AAP’s promise to extend its free bus ride scheme to students, mentioned in Kejriwal’s 10-point guarantee card ahead of the assembly elections, may be executed within three months of the government assuming office, Gahlot said. The AAP government offers free rides to women in all state-run buses since October.
“Going by my experience as the transport minister, fulfilling the promise to offer free bus rides to students is not tough. It will have to be tabled in the Cabinet and then will have to be approved in the Board of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). So, it can be executed in about three months. It will, however, be unfair to comment any further on this since we don’t know yet if the portfolio will remain with me,” said Gahlot.
Besides, the government is also working on to bring at least 2,000 new buses within the next six months since procurement of a total of 4,300 buses is already underway. Since last year, 520 buses have been added, taking the total fleet of functioning state-run buses to 5,966. Delhi, according to various court orders, needs at least 10,000 buses in its public transport network.
Senior officials in the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) who asked not to be named said that the Delhi government in collaboration with Washington University will start giving out real-time data identifying area-wise sources of air pollution in the city from April.
“We have base level data for almost a year now. The comparison with the previous year’s pollution source data will begin from April. The machines have been set up at our air quality monitoring centre near India Gate. Once it starts, details of air pollution and its sources will be provided in an interval of every four hours,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
This is in line with what Kejriwal had said at the HT Leadership Summit last December.
Kejriwal’s flagship project, the doorstep delivery of ration, which aims to offer free home delivery of essential supplies to ration-card holders, has received “all the necessary clearances”, an official said.
The scheme, which was devised on the lines of the AAP government’s doorstep delivery of services programme, merely needs to be rolled out now, said Jasmine Shah, vice-chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi, which monitored the project over the last two years. “Earlier, the lieutenant governor (L-G) had raised objections to the scheme. But, now the L-G is on board. The file now has all the administrative approvals that were required and we expect it to be rolled out within the next six months,” he added.
The scheme became a major cause of flashpoint between Delhi government’s ministers and bureaucracy after the food and civil supplies department said that if the scheme was rolled out in its current form, the 2,200 fair price shops (FPS) in Delhi would be rendered useless, and claimed this would be a violation of the National Food Safety Act.
The PWD, a portfolio which Satyendar Jain is likely to retain, will have its hands full in the coming months. The minister has set a tough deadline of completing two major flyovers -- Seelampur and Shastri Park -- aimed at decongesting north-east Delhi, by August. A PWD official said other priorities which will be addressed within six months include increasing the number of free Wi-Fi hot spots and streetlights in Delhi.