The Aam Aadmi Party government has completed two years in power on February 14 after it reoccupied the Delhi Secretariat at Players’ Building with a brute majority in 2015.
A better part of these two years was marked by a tug of war with the NDA government at the Centre and the then lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung over administrative jurisdiction. In the ongoing legal battle, the first round went to the L-G when the Delhi high court stamped the latter as the real administrator of the national capital. While the AAP government consistently accused the Centre of creating obstacles in governance and stalling projects, it has claimed to have done some pioneering work, especially in the field of healthcare and school education.
Now, as the government completes two of its five years, HT conducts a reality check on some of its big-ticket promises.
Over five months, 110 mohalla clinics have treated 8 lakh patients, as per the government data. The AAP government showcased this as a path breaking achievement and received international acclaim. However, insiders believe that the project is still in its nascent stage and is far from being a game changer for health sector.
World leaders like former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former WHO director general Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland praised the project for aiming to provide free public health care and indicated the need to scale up the project as well as improve its management. “The project could be a model for all Indian states embarking on the UHC (Universal Health Care) journeys,” read the letter to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal by Annan in his capacity as chair of The Elders, an organisation of independent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela.
The government had planned to set up 1,000 mohalla clinics for consultation, medicines and tests free of cost by the end of 2016. This deadline has been extended to March 2017 but it is unlikely that the government will be able to meet it. With, only around 110 mohalla clinics functional, the AAP government has sought to take refuge in its infamous tussle with the lieutenant governor and Centre.
“The government had said that the project will reduce over-crowding in tertiary care centres like ours. However, the impact cannot be felt just with the 100 clinics. Once the project is complete we will be able to see the results,” said Punita Mahajan, medical director of Baba Saheb Ambedkar hospital.
Doctors working with the project also point to some inconsistencies.
“Looking at just the model clinic is not enough. Apart from routine out-patient clinic, we provide immunisation to children, DOTS centre for TB treatment and counselling for male sterilisation but these services are not available in the other clinics,” said Dr Alka Choudhary, who is posted in Peera Garhi Mohalla Clinic. Also, all clinics are not able to provide the promised 212 tests; her clinic provides only 25 tests, she said.
Space constraint and slow technology also add to the woes of doctors. “Since the time the clinic has started, the number of people has kept on increasing, so much so, that there is no place for the patients to wait. Add to that the slow tabs and the numerous fields we have to fill in, the wait period just keeps on increasing,” said Dr Preeti Saxena from Pandav Nagar mohalla clinic.The BJP has also flagged the lack of monitoring in the project that has allegedly resulted in doctors giving inflated numbers to get bigger pay checks as they get paid on per patient basis. “I know of clinics where people with chronic conditions like COPD, asthma, diabetes are called every other day to get their medicines. This is done to drive up the OPD numbers as they get paid ₹30 per patient,” said Dr Choudhary, who is a contractual doctor under NRHM and has been posted in the clinic.
“Initially, doctors inflating the numbers for more money was a concern for us too but we later realised that these clinics receive so many patients that the doctor can either treat them or sit and fill in records,” a Delhi government official said.
Delhi’s list of essential drugs — comprising tablets, injections, syrups, drops and ointments given free of cost at all government dispensaries, clinics and hospitals — names 1,390 medicines, nearly four times the National List of Essential Medicines which has 376 medicines.
Almost all the medicines in the list are available for free at government pharmacies and doctors only prescribe medicines from the expanded drug list so that patients do not have to go to private chemists. However, patients have to queue up for several hours to get even basic medicines.
“I came to the hospital at 7am and waited for two hours to meet the doctor. Since then, I have been standing in the queue for cough and fever medicines and it’s 1.30pm now. I still have fever and I can’t wait any longer. I have no choice but to buy it from a chemist,” said Kusum Kumari at the Lok Nayak Hospital pharmacy.
“My mother has a heart condition and needs regular medication. We pick up medicines every 15 days when we bring her for a check-up and end up spending the whole day at the hospital to get the medicines. My sister stands in the queue while I take my mother to the OPD, and when I’m done, I stand in the line,” said Roshanara Khatun, 47, who goes to the clinic in Tahirpur.
Adding to the delay are touts lurking around medicine counters offering free medicines for a small price. Standing in a queue at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital pharmacy, a woman who did not want to be named said, “I get my asthma medicines here each month. There are three-four boys here, who get you the medicines in 15 minutes for Rs 100-300, depending on the price of medicines.”
“Paying the touts for free medicine is still cheaper than the commercial price,” she said.
There are many who can’t afford to pay touts. “The queue takes hours as people with access get medicines from the other side of the counter. If we have to pay the touts, then what is the point of free medicines? Besides, I do not really have the money to pay,” said Mohammed Alam, 67, who had come to collect his blood pressure medication to GTB hospital.
To ensure there’s no shortage, Delhi government has asked hospitals maintain a stock of three months for commonly-used medicines and has given medical superintendents the power to buy medicines in small quantities when there’s an unexpected shortage.
Ahead of the 2015 assembly polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) gave an elaborate statement of purpose in its manifesto about reforming the health and education sectors. What it did not have was a clear road map to curb pollution.
In December 2015, after the Delhi High Court called the capital a “gas chamber”, the fledgling government was forced to react. Taking suo moto cognisance of reports on rising air pollution, the court had directed the Centre and the Delhi government to submit an action plan to deal with the problem.
Delhi is one of the world’s most polluted cities with some studies putting daily pollution related fatalities in the capital at as high as eight. November 2016 saw the city enveloped in dense smog with particulate matter shooting to unprecedented levels. PM10 levels in November at Anand Vihar touched 1700 mark (the safe limit is 100).
During the course of its two-year rule, the AAP government proved that it is neither short of ideas nor political will when it comes to tackling pollution. But when it decided to go ahead with odd-even car rationing plan, it lacked the conviction to go the whole hog. It also didn’t use the pollution-free months in 2016 to prepare for the winter spike.
“In 2015-16, there was a sense of optimism as the Delhi government came up with a short-term action plan and implemented the odd-even plan. After that there was a slowdown and the government missed out on rolling out a sustained plan of action. Months later, we got caught in the deadly smog and got into a reactive mode. This time the action has to be sustained,” says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Jagan Shah, director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, agreed. “Air pollution spiked to alarming levels, so the government came up with a slew of measures. But, it was quite late. High decibel announcements are made which often fizzle out later.”
A look at steps taken by the government showed these either lost steam midway or were implemented without a comprehensive long-term strategy.
World over, collection of data is the first step to fighting pollution. The Delhi government talked of deploying mobile monitoring stations. But a related plan to put up screens at public places is yet to take off. Although ₹137 crore was allocated, a senior government official said it may not be implemented at all.
“We are looking at widening air quality monitoring network with 20 new stations. These will all have screens to display real-time pollution readings,” the official said. More monitoring points will help micro handling of air quality.
The SC recently asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to withdraw funds from the environment compensation charge fund to buy equipment for new monitoring stations across Delhi-NCR. In Delhi, apart from CPCB, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, SAFAR (under the Union government) and the US embassy have installed pollution testing mechanisms. Delhi has 28 stations — four by DPCC, eight by the Met department and the rest by CPCB.
In 2015, the AAP government launched odd-even car rationing plan – a brave move in a city where the total number of vehicles is set to touch 10 million. Though there was no visible impact on air pollution, the first phase saw reduced traffic on roads. But the second phase resulted in “more congestion on roads”.
A study by School of Planning and Architecture also showed that the share of private vehicles in the city rose by almost 50% during odd-even phase two. “Vehicle owners became smarter and bought second hand cars. People went for retrofitted CNG kits, which pollute more. The air quality also dipped due to factors like lack of wind speed,” said Dr S Velmurugan, senior principal scientist, traffic engineering and safety division at CSIR-CRRI. The poor state of public transport didn’t help either.
Dust and farm fires
The AAP government banned construction activity to check pollution by dust in November and December last year. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), dust is the highest source of pollution in Delhi and contributes to 52% of particulate matter.
The government steps, however, were not backed by intensive measures such as step-by-step demolition, covering construction site during demolition and use of sprinklers. Mechanical sweeping never took off properly.
Every year, farm fires in Punjab and Haryana raise pollutants by over six times the limit. The Delhi government has raised the issue but despite court bans and fines, the practice continued.
With the Centre notifying the graded response action plan, it is time for the AAP government to show it is ready to walk the talk. The plan assigns specific responsibility to each agency to counter pollution. Environment Pollution Control Committee chief Bhurelal said : “Over two years, the government has taken steps. The biggest milestone will be the graded action system. The onus is on the state government now,” he said.
People come to bus stands in Chittaranjan Park for odd reasons — to wait for their cabs, to sleep on the benches or to find shelter from rain — few however come here to catch a bus.
Ambika Sen who lives near CR Park’s Market III says the two bus stops are empty most of the time. “That’s because buses rarely come here. Nobody has the time to wait for 20 minutes Be it the metro or cabs, there are quicker options available,” she said.
Residents also say that buses mostly use a different route via the main roads. “Maybe they do it because only few people use them now. The buses which do come to the stands operate only on two or three routes,” said Puneet Ray who lives near Market II.
CR Park is just one of the hundreds of places in Delhi were finding a bus is like spotting a meteorite in the sky. Data with the transport department suggest that out of 674 bus routes, over 230 have become obsolete. “Bus route rationalisation, keeping in mind the accessibility to bus system within a colony, is very important. Many routes that originated from/passed through colonies have been withdrawn due to traffic/road conditions in colonies,” said Ashok Bhattacharjee, a former UTTIPEC director.
Bhattacharjee said reliability is another aspect that needs attention. “Information availability and bus to bus and bus to metro seamless interchange facility at all major junctions by relocating bus stops for reduced distance must be ensured,” he said.
The Delhi government wants to rationalise bus routes, however, it is yet to decide whether to do a fresh study or use the report prepared by Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) back in 2010-11.
In their first budget, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had promised to induct 10,000 more buses in five years while in the manifesto, the promise was to add 5,000 buses. In its second budget presented last year, the government said it would procure 1000 new low floor non-AC buses, 1000 under the cluster bus scheme and another 1000 under a new premium category during 2016-17.
However, not a single bus has been added to the low-floor fleet and only 215 have been added under the cluster scheme. The plan for premium buses did not materialize as the L-G asked the government to re-work on it.
“The first thing that needs to be done is to bring a transport policy for Delhi. At present, actions and projects are taken up on ad-hoc basis. A policy would allow the government to unclog Delhi and reduce air pollution in a scientific way,” said Nalin Sinha, transportation and road safety consultant.
He added that the government must allocate one per cent of its budget for promoting pedestrians and cyclists each year. The odd-even experiment showed that extra buses can solve the problem of public transport AAP government’s failure to procure buses can lead to big mess.
Data show that bus fleet has reduced by over 35% in six years. Delhi Transport Corporation, which used to operate 6204 buses in 2010-11, is operating only 4020 buses due to which ridership has also reduced considerably. Only 21.80% Delhi commutes by bus, but the share of buses among all registered vehicles in Delhi has gone down from 1.52% in 1980-81 to less than 0.36% now. The depleting fleet of DTC buses and its image of poor man’s service have kept commuters away.
The Capital has had a tumultuous affair with e-rickshaws over the past few years. The battery-operated rickshaws have emerged as a complementary mode of para-transit for last mile connectivity. What contributed the most to its unbridled growth is the absence of a policy and within a small time these have become a major cause of traffic congestion.
After temporary ban was enforced by Delhi High Court on battery-operated rickshaws, the Central government notified a policy in October 2010. Since then, the Delhi government has started registering e-rickshaws and issuing licences. However, these three-wheelers are far complying with the regulations.
Around a lakh e-rickshaws ply on city roads, but only around 21,000 are registered. Last year, the government promised to enhance subsidy for e-rickshaw drivers from ₹15,000 to ₹30,000. However, the scheme failed to take off and it was re-introduced last month.
Meanwhile, over 85,000 autos, comprising AAP’s biggest vote bank, continue to charge commuters arbitrarily. This year, the government has decided to issue 10,000 permits to auto drivers, the application process for which is underway.
As an increasing number of vehicles choke Delhi’s roads, the big question is how to decongest its busy stretches. While the government moved a plan to redesign roads one-and-a-half years ago, experts said the idea is difficult to implement and of little use.
To implement Delhi government’s ambitious scheme of redesigning of 10 roads, Public Works Department (PWD) visited officials the BRT stretch and Ring Road near Andrews Ganj. The visit revealed there was no possibility of reducing space for vehicles and allocating it to pedestrians and cyclists.
Experts said, the redesigning plan must be made road specific as the requirement of each stretch is different. “Government wanted to provide space for pedestrians and cyclists in the existing road but the situation is different at different roads. In Andrews Ganj, the road cannot be narrowed further to give space to non-motorised vehicles. Consultants have suggested different plans for different roads,” said a PWD official.
Some even called the idea impossible.
“The government should have a road engineering department so that at least in coming projects, they have adequate space for every vehicle,” said Rohit Baluja, Institute of Road Traffic Education.
According to PWD officials, there is need to create additional infrastructure to accommodate more vehicles, but the government wants to focus on redesigning of existing roads. Sources said that the PWD prepared a plan of east-west and north-south corridor in the city, but government is yet to take a call.
“It is surprising why the government is not focusing on maintaining city roads,” said Dr S Velmurugan, principal scientist, CRRI. However, government officials say facilities for pedestrians need to be increased to encourage.
“Pedestrian movement will be made smooth by removing obstacles. There will be provision of FOBs with glass lifts and staircases, keeping in mind the comfort of pedestrians,” said an official.
In their second year in power, AAP government in Delhi focused on the reading ability of students. The government found out that 3.5 lakh students in class 6-8 could not read and launched a campaign to ensure they gained basic reading abilities.The two-month long campaign ended on November 14 last year with the government claiming that 1 lakh students between class 6-8 were able to read their textbooks.
HT takes a look at the challenges that were faced and what lies ahead for the government in this sector.
July 2016: 3.5 lakh students unable to read textbooks
Rahul, a student of Class VI at a West Delhi government school, kept his textbook open, but none of the sentences in it made sense to him. Rahul was among the 3.5 lakh students enrolled in government schools in class VI-VIII, identified by the government in July last year as “non-readers” or students who were unable to read their own textbooks. Many of them could not even identify letters.
The government soon announced “Chunauti Mission” and teachers, officials and other authorities pledged on Teacher’s Day — September 5, 2016 — to ensure that every child enrolled in government schools is able to read at their own level by Children’s Day on November 14, 2016.
These students were given special attention and every day two hours were spent teaching them basic reading skills, using different methods such as videos and interactive stories to teach alphabets.
November 2016: Govt claims improvement, critics dismissive
By the end of the campaign, it was reported that 1 lakh students were able to read their textbooks, including Rahul, of West Delhi. The rest also saw some changes. At the start of the campaign, 26% could not identify characters and words, but after the campaign this number came down to 10%.
The figures have been called dubious by many including members of the Government School Teachers’ Association, who in a statement released in November alleged that “the number of ’non-reader’ students was inflated in July, as this would then help them show greater ‘change’ later.”
The results have not been uniform over schools. While Shaheed Captain Sandeep Dahiya Sarvodaya School in Rohini was able to give a 100% result with all of its non-readers becoming readers, at the Nandnagiri extension F1/F2 Government Girls Senior Secondary School, only 110 out of the initial 265 non-readers became readers and 155 were still non-readers when re-tested in November 2016.
“Students can now recognise words, sentences and paragraphs, but we still need to work on making sure they understand the text they read,” said Nisha Verma, a Science teacher at the Nandnagiri school.
Experts such as Anaki Rajan, a professor in education at the Jamia Milia Islamia have also questioned the effectiveness of such “crash courses” in language. “If they can’t read any fresh, unseen texts, then we can’t claim that they have made ‘progress’. Then it becomes training, not real education,” said Rajan, when asked about the campaign in November 2016.
Anita Rampal, professor and former dean faculty of education Delhi University, said segregating students on the basis of their academic performance is discriminatory in nature.
“This is not justified. Students will start doubting themselves and their confidence will take a hit. You can’t label students as good at studies or not good at studies and segregate them. Learning is not an individual process but a social one. It has been found that a mixed ability group is always better,” she said.
February 2017: What lies ahead?
Teachers have also said that there needs to be a follow up of the scheme and leaving the students in the present state may undo the efforts. Atishi Marlena, advisor to education minister Manish Sisodia, told HT that they are focusing on making students learn rather than completing syllabus and plan to restart the campaign.
Sisodia also conceded that the campaign needs to continue as there are many students who are yet to improve. “I agree that there are many students who still can’t read, though we have seen significant improvement in many. So once, the exam period is over, we will resume the programme in the next academic year,” said the minister.
Education is one sector in which the AAP government is trying to make a mark. So much so that education was the main theme at this year’s Delhi tableau at the Republic Day parade. The government highlighted its model schools and the mega parent-teacher meetings (PTMs).
Hindustan Times takes stock of the AAP government’s hits and misses during its two year stint in the field of education and analyses its election promises.
Unable to find land to build 500 “new” schools it promised two years ago, the Delhi government is constructing “new” classrooms in existing schools to increase enrolment.
“We constructed 8,000 new classrooms. One school has about 80 classrooms, so effectively there are 100 new schools. Some new schools have been constructed. In 2014-15 there were 1,007 schools and now we have 1,024,” said Atishi Marlena, advisor to education minister Manish Sisodia.
Sisodia said the crux of the promise was that more students would have access to quality education. “With the new classrooms, more students will be able to get school education,” said Sisodia.
But the government teachers’ association challenged the claims. General secretary Ajay Veer Yadav said, “Rooms have been constructed but in an unplanned way to increase the number of classrooms. Many schools still run from tin sheds,” he claimed.
Check on fee hike
Private schools built on DDA land have to seek the government’s nod before hiking annual fees. In the coming academic session, only 5 of 410 private schools that applied for fee hike were allowed to do so. The government decides on a fee hike after auditing schools’ finances.
“Schools built on DDA land cannot hike as per their wishes,” said Marlena.
The principal of a private school said, “The Delhi Education Act says the school managements can hike fees within 10%. Only if they want to hike more, the government’s nod is required.”
The government had sent a group of principals and teachers to Cambridge University and Indian Institutes of Management. “In our first year, we had looked at infrastructure. In the second year we concentrated on teacher training,” said Sisodia.
Of the over Rs 10,000 crore the government allocated for education in the 2016 budget, Rs 102 crore was for training.
But experts had a word of caution. “Teachers need training in our own context. I am not sure if somebody in Cambridge can understand problems specific to our schools and society. It sounds good but will it actually help students?” said Poonam Batra, who teaches at department of education, Delhi University.
Promise of 17,000 new teachers
The government is struggling with hiring of teachers. The Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) conducted exams to fill 5,000 teaching posts out of which 2,500 joined various schools, said a government official.
Marlena said the government created 9,500 new teaching posts but is yet to induct permanent teachers. “We will hire guest teachers till permanent appointment is done,” she said.
Sisodia said a proposal to make many of the 17,000 odd guest teachers permanent is awaiting the L-G’s approval.
“I have increased the salaries of guest teachers until I can get them made permanent. I cannot hire so many people overnight. It has to be through a legal procedure,” he said.
But guest teachers are not happy. Shoaib Rana, a guest teacher at Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Jaffrabad, said, “For the last two years government has been fooling us. They know they cannot regularise us, it was a false promise.”
20 new colleges, extended campuses
Not a single new college has been opened as the government later figured out that Delhi University is the only affiliating university in the capital.
So now the government is expanding Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) and other institutes by increasing the number of seats in educational institutes for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
“We plan to create 17,350 seats for higher education courses (by 2019),” said Marlena.
By 2019, it is expected that the Delhi government will start three new campuses of AUD, at Rohini, Dheerpur and Lodhi Road, in addition to the new campus functioning at Karampura.
It will expand Delhi Technological University’s Rohini campus and open a new campus in East Delhi by next year.
Sisodia said even if one argues that these are just “extended campuses,” it serves the same purpose. “Ultimately people are looking for degrees,” he said.
The government says it has a long way to go but is on the “right track”.
“The initial changes are always slow but now it is gaining momentum. We are openly accepting we have a problem in our school system, which we are trying to fix,” said Marlena.
In the next year, Sisodia said, focus will be on teaching methods, especially in school education. “We will concentrate on creative learning methods, so that learning becomes interesting,” he said.
They had to sweat it out in peak summers last year because of frequent power outages and even mourned the death of a resident electrocuted by live wires dangling outside his verandah – a usual scene in slums and illegal colonies.
Yet, when it comes to electricity, most of the two lakh-odd residents of South Delhi’s Ambedkar Nagar seem to be happy with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. The reason: Low power bills.
“Our power bills have come down and that’s a good thing Kejriwal (Delhi chief minister) has done,” said Rupesh Dhaiya, a resident of Dakshinpuri in south Delhi’s Amebdkar Nagar, a reserved (SC) assembly constituency and a key vote base of the AAP.
Residents said power outages are common in the area. But they don’t mind it. “Even on Republic Day, the entire colony didn’t have power. The same thing happened a few days later. We have inverters, so it doesn’t matter much,” said Savitri Rai, who lives in her own house in Khanpur colony.
Rai isn’t complaining as she has to pay less on her power bills now. “In summers, our bills have come down to Rs 1,300 from Rs 2,000 and in winters, we pay Rs 600 instead of Rs 800,” she said.
With frequent power cuts, summers were not pleasant last year. There was no shortage of electricity but outages occurred mostly due to “local faults”, officials said. “The government may blame distribution companies for the local faults. But it has completely avoided pulling up Delhi Transco Limited (DTL), which is under its jurisdiction for repeated delays in its ongoing projects. As a result, Delhi’s transmission network is ageing and breaks down frequently,” said Pramod Deo, former Chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC).
Tenants are angry
The AAP government’s sop of 50% subsidy on power tariffs for those who consume up to 400 units seems to be popular among people who live in their own houses.
But tenants are peeved. At least 30% (Census 2011) of all families in Delhi live in rented accommodations and this section claims the benefits are yet to reach them.
“It (slashing power tariffs) made no difference in our lives. Our landlord charges us the same amount of Rs 9 per unit for the electricity we consume,” said Shahbuddeen, a resident of Laxmi Nagar.
HT visited areas such as Sangam Vihar, Deoli, Chittaranjan Park and Anand Vihar and found that almost all tenants complained of the same problem. In most cases, the owner’s house has the main meter and tenants have sub-meters. “The bill comes as one and ideally we should be charged as per the mandated slabs. But that doesn’t happen as the rent agreement expects each tenant to pay for their consumed units, based on the highest tariff, with 10 per cent surcharge and service tax,” said Zinnia Ray, a resident of CR Park.
“I and my flat mate consume only about 150 units a month and according to the government’s promise, I should be paying Rs 2 per unit. But we are paying Rs 8 or so,” she added.
However, be it owners or tenants, Delhiites are happy that tariffs have not increased in the past two years. Till 2014, power tariffs were hiked for four consecutive years.
A glance at the AAP government’s five-point ‘action plan’ in the power sector reveals it has taken small steps in four of its promises. The party’s manifesto promised reduction of electricity bills by half, CAG audit of power discoms, Delhi’s own power plant, introduction of competition among discoms and Delhi as a solar city.
While the first one was fulfilled within 11 days of the party coming to power, the CAG audit of power discoms is sub judice.
The promise of making Delhi a solar city is gradually being fulfilled with the government notifying the ‘Delhi Solar Energy Policy, 2015’ in June 2016. But it is yet to release the list of empanelled companies so that domestic consumers can get solar panels on their rooftops and avail 30% subsidy offered by the government.
Two of its promises – that Delhi would have its own power plant outside the capital and introduction of competition among discoms - are yet to be fulfilled and may take years before they turn into a reality.
Rajeev Singh, 45, is an angry man. A resident of south Delhi’s Sangam Vihar – one of Delhi’s biggest unauthorised colonies -- water continues to be his biggest headache.
Buying water from illegal tankers every week has become a way of life. And nothing has changed for him in the past two years
“For a small tanker with a capacity of 2,500 litres, which lasts for five days, we pay Rs 550. For a bigger one, with a capacity of 5,000 litres which is sufficient for 10 days, I shell out Rs 1,100. In summers, rates increase go to up to Rs 1,500. The Jal board tankers deliver water to only those with ‘setting’. We don’t get that benefit,” Singh says.
Not just Sangam Vihar, where only some parts have piped water, Hindustan Times spotted private tankers operating in many colonies across South and West Delhi. So has the government, even after two years, no answer to the tanker mafia?
“The Delhi Jal Board has already deployed 407 GPS driven stainless water tankers, 300 MS Tankers and 250 new departmental stainless steel water tankers to curb the water mafia. The water supply network has been extended in 1,200 colonies, reducing the demand on water tankers. As soon as network goes to all colonies, the number of tankers will be automatically reduced,” DJB chairman Keshav Chandra said.
At present, about 83% households of Delhi have access to piped water supply. In the past two years, over 1,200 unauthorised colonies have got access to the water supply network. In the 2016-17 budget, Rs 676 crore was earmarked for this. Work in 300 colonies is targeted to be completed by the end of this year. No-objection certificates for 114 colonies are yet to be issued and technical feasibility in 43 colonies does not exist, a government official said.
In the budget, the government waived off 100% arrears for consumers belonging to the “E”, “F”, “G” & “H” category colonies, 75% in “D” category, 50% in “C” and 25% in “A” & “B” categories with complete remission of late payment surcharge. It reduced the development charge from Rs 440 per sq m to Rs 100 per sq m in unauthorised colonies, which officials claim enrolled and benefitted almost 130,000 consumers.
The AAP government says it is providing 20,000 litres of water free of cost to domestic consumers. For users who consume between 20,000 litres and 30,000 litres of water per month, the service charge is Rs 219.62 and the volumetric charge is Rs 21.97 per 1,000 litres. Customers who use over 30,000 litres a month have to pay Rs 292.82 in service charge and Rs 36.61 per 1,000 litres in volumetric charge.
But experts question the feasibility of this model.
Jyoti Sharma, president of FORCE India, an NGO dedicated to water conservation, says the intention was right behind this free water scheme but it is sending out a wrong message.
“The intention was dual: To make life easier for people in the lower income brackets and to encourage people to use less. But a majority of the target populace doesn’t have metered connection and so they are not benefitting from the scheme. Making water free is sending a wrong message. It is a signal that is making people less aware of the need to conserve,” Sharma said.
It can achieve the desired objective only if it there are working meters for all residents. Sharma said.
Other experts, too, agree that the vision is there but execution is a problem.
Environmentalist Vikram Soni, a professor at Centre for Theoretical Physics, Jamia Millia Islamia, says the AAP government is on the right track but needs to do more and persist with its initiatives.
“Take the Yamuna Palla floodwater harvesting project for example. This can act as a contingency reserve for Delhi if done. It can also bring the Delhi Jal Board R700 crore as revenue. It is running but needs to be completed. Field trial needs to be done, pipelines need to be installed and wells and water need to be monitored. The water minister has been very proactive but the Jal Board is still dragging its feet. It should move fast,” Soni said.
In street number 4 of East Azad Nagar, January was the month for hectic wedding preparations. The neighbourhood was transformed with festive music, lights and flavours. Nothing, however, could fix the perennial waterlogging in the lane.
“My daughter’s wedding was an occasion to celebrate but the water-logging caused us so much embarrassment. We stayed inside most of the time. It is what we do the rest of the year too as the lane is always water-logged,” said 65-year-old Asha (name changed), who lives here.
The 3-feet wide lane is home to a row of multiple-storey houses built on 25-yard plots. Four years back, East Azad Nagar earned the ‘legal’ tag as its layout plan was approved by the municipal corporation. However, that changed nothing on ground for the residents.
Regularisation of unauthorised colonies — one of the biggest political issues in the Capital — stems from the failure of successive governments to provide planned housing. Official estimates peg the number of unauthorised colonies in the city at 1,650, with about 50 lakh residents. East Azad Nagar was one of the 895 colonies which were regularised by then Sheila Dikshit government in 2012.
Ahead of the 2015 assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party also promised to provide registration rights with regard to property and sale deeds in resettlement colonies.
“We will provide water, sewer lines, electricity, schools and hospitals in a systematic and phased manner. Multi-pronged approach is the only way to empower unauthorised colonies, and has never been attempted by the BJP or the Congress. Within one year, these unauthorised colonies will be regularised and residents will be given ownership rights,” the AAP manifesto promised.
Soon after coming to power, the AAP government announced the decision to open registry of property in unauthorised colonies bypassing the process to be completed by the municipal corporations. The government said in 2015 that soon after it sends the boundary details to corporations, it will also allow registry of property.
However, the process is now stuck as the Union urban development ministry has asked the Delhi government to submit details of plot size and population in these colonies.
“We have received a letter from UD ministry with a list of queries. They want to know the population of every colony, size of plots, vacant plots, details of land owning agency and cost of regularisation,” said an official in the Delhi urban development department of Delhi government. Officials say it will take time to prepare the report even as lakhs of people continue to battle with the living conditions on a daily basis.
“Government should acknowledge that these colonies have come up because of the failure of those in power. The onus is on the government as they were supposed to build these houses. The government should simply try to make the living condition better in these colonies,” said Dunu Roy, director, Hazards Centre.
However, regularisation and approval of layout hasn’t meant better amenities for these colonies. East Azad Nagar, for example, has the tiniest of roads, no parking infrastructure, open overflowing drains and dangling power wires. Moreover, the structural safety of buildings in these colonies is a major cause of concern.
“Regularised or not, our problems are the same. The main road has been carpeted several times because of which the level of our lane has become lower, hence the water-logging,” said Rakesh, a resident of East Azad Nagar’s street number four.
Subhash Chandra Kohli, president of East Azad Nagar RWA, agrees that nothing has changed on ground. “Delhi government is still to include the colony in the official map of authorised Delhi colonies,” he says.
Senior officials who worked on approval of the layout plan of East Azad Nagar in 2013 say several rules, as per the Master Plan, were bypassed in the process. “The law mandates a clearly defined minimum width of streets and bylanes, space for public utilities and emergency measures. On paper, most of these were done with riders. For example, the width of the streets has been increased by marking them with dotted lines. A rider has been inserted in the statute that whenever the property owner applies for reconstruction of house, the building plan will be passed taking into account the marked line on the map,” an official said.
Officials admit that the only possible benefits of regularisation will be ownership of property and making the area eligible for basic government services. Vijay Kumar, a resident of street number 19, A-block, East Azad Nagar concurs, “The only way it helps us is that we can now sell and purchase property legally.”
Two years after the Aam Adami Party government came to power, its promise of ‘Jahan Jhuggi, Wahan Makaan’ has failed to gain momentum.
What has kept the slum dwellers away from their dream home is bureaucratic hurdles. Approved by the Delhi cabinet in July 2016, the rehabilitation policy was sent back by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal early this month with some observations.
The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) has now responded to L-G’s comment and as the files run to and fro a final notification of the policy is yet to come.
Despite delay in the rehabilitation policy, the government has opened over 10,000 toilets in slums. The DUSIB has constructed 5,000 toilet seats so far and government wants to add 10,000 more seats before March.
“Apart from constructing new toilets, we have focused on repair and upgradation of existing ones. We have installed taps in 80% of the toilets and regular cleaning is done,” said a DUSIB official.
DUSIB has plans to construct 2 lakh public toilets across Delhi of which 1.5 lakh will be in slum clusters.
Meanwhile, with January 1, 2015 as the cut-off date for the policy, the clusters that came up after this date face threat of demolition.
Some experts also feel that slum rehabilitation requires a multi-dimensional approach that includes providing proper care. “Relocation of can be a dangerous policy. They lose everything. The best way to deal with this is to leave the slum as it is and provide the basic facilities to them,” said Dunu Roy, director, Hazards Centre.
A Delhi government spokesperson, however, said the policy takes care to rehabilitate slum dwellers close to their homes. “The thrust of the policy is in-situ rehabilitation, using land as a resource and resorting to relocation
only as an exception. Attempt will be made to rehabilitate the eligible Jhuggi Jhopri dwellers at the same location or a within a radius of 5 km,” the spokesperson said.
It was decided that DUSIB will rehabilitate the eligible JJ dwellers before removal of jhuggies as per this policy. The DUSIB had identified four slum clusters where a pilot project was to be started but this, too, got stuck in bureaucracy.
About 2,000 families living in north Delhi’s Sangam Park were to be the first to be rehabilitated under Delhi government’s slum-free plan.
The DUSIB has submitted the plan to the municipal corporation for the approval but is yet to receive a response.