After being constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons for more than a year at the beginning of its five-year term, the Aam Admi Party government in Delhi under Arvind Kejriwal now seems keen to present a different face that is in tune with the expectations it had raised when the people of Delhi had swept it to power with an unprecedented mandate in 2014.It would appear that AAP is relegating the ‘Jung’ (fight) with Najeeb Jung, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi who embodies the power of the Centre, to the background.
Given the power that the Centre enjoys over the ‘half state’ of Delhi, it cannot be said the conflict between the Delhi government and the LG will disappear altogether. The government at the Centre has always been reluctant to grant full statehood to Delhi and this leads to anger among local politicians. But the Aam Admi Party and its leaders perhaps now realise that most people have little or no interest in this kind matter, important though it may be. People want ‘action’; words do not impress them.
They elected 67 AAP members to the 70-member Delhi Assembly on the basis of an attractive and in some ways an innovative agenda of governance that Kejriwal’s party had presented to them. The people trusted the AAP team after having been failed by the two major national parties that have traditionally dominated politics in the capital.
The AAP manifesto for Delhi had looked more ‘populist’ than realistic. The AAP leaders said they will show that their words are not empty promises. It may perhaps be right to say that what attracted a lot of people to the Aam Admi Party during the last election in Delhi were the ‘populist’ promises. People looked forward to reduced electricity tariff, provision of piped drinking water and regularisation of slums, better healthcare and schools, among other things. Before that a step that created a lot of interest was the plan to involve people in most of the decisions to be taken for their benefit.
Domestic electricity consumers in Delhi are today enjoying 50 per cent subsidy if they consume less than 400 units in a month. This makes Delhi the city with the lowest electricity tariff in the country. The government claims that this programme benefits 90 per cent of the consumers in Delhi. The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission has rejected petitions by private power distribution companies for a hike in tariff. The government says that the electricity tariff will not be increased during the current year.
The Delhi government provides up to 20 kilolitres of free water every month to each household with a metred connection. It has waived off payments for all water bills till November 30, 2015. About 1.5 lakh families have benefitted from this scheme. What has come as a surprise is that despite the free water supply, the Delhi Jal Board earned Rs 178 crore extra during 2015-16.
If the Delhi government is able to stick to its promise, very soon the water supplied by the DJB will not require additional filtration or treatment. A network of laboratories across the city will constantly test the quality of the water supply to make sure that the tap water is safe for drinking. The government says that by the end of 2017, every household in Delhi will get clean tap water, perhaps the first city in the country to have this facility. While 263 new colonies got clean drinking water this year, another 300 ‘unauthorised’ colonies will be linked to the piped water supply network.
Air pollution in Delhi has become a major health issue, affecting the young and the old alike. Kejriwal himself is vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. To tackle the air pollution problem, the Delhi government has launched a programme for vacuum cleaning of roads and making them green. It should help make the roads dust-free to the extent possible. Bald road patches will be greened to further reduce dust pollution. To begin with 1260 km of ‘PWD roads’ will be vacuum cleaned while the ‘MCD roads’ will follow after the civic polls.
The car rationing system or the ‘odd-even’ formula for running private cars on the roads has been introduced as another measure to reduce air pollution in the city. The ‘odd-even’ system was first experimented in the city in February last for two weeks when despite some criticism it had provided a welcome relief to the people with considerably reduced car traffic during the fortnight.
Safety of women outside their homes has been a big issue in Delhi. After the ‘Nirbhaya’ gang rape case Delhi had the misfortune of being called the rape capital of India. One of the ways to fight this crime is to install a large number of CCTV cameras and illuminate the roads, apart from more intense police patrolling. This year the Delhi government has allocated over Rs 1000 crore for women safety programmes which include installing CCTV cameras all over the city and lighting 42,000 ‘dark spots’. At the same time, the government proposes to set up Mohall Raksha Dals (civil defence volunteers) in the city.
While some the electoral promises made by AAP might have looked tall talk—‘Jumlas’, to borrow an expression from the BJP—the people of the capital will expect the government in Delhi to pay more heed to solving the long neglected problems in their daily lives than waging an open warfare with the Centre.
The AAP probably understands it better now and the results are becoming evident—the acclaims that are coming its way along though, of course, it cannot be immune from criticism. One of the new measures taken by the AAP government has won it international acclaim. According to the Delhi government, the Mohalla (neighbourhood) Clinics launched last July has drawn praise from an influential American newspaper, the Washington Post.
The state government will open about 1000 clinics by the end of this year in various neighbourhoods of Delhi for the people of the capital and bring medical care nearer to their homes. The people will get quick attention without burdening the emergency service of the hospitals. The American paper has advised Western countries to think of setting up similar clinics in their cities. The plan is to provide three levels of medical care to the people of Delhi—at the Mohalla Clinics doctors will provide primary care, polyclinics where free consultation will be available for special health issues (for instance, paediatric and gynaecology related problems), and, finally, hospitals. Medicines and diagnostic tests are free in Delhi government hospitals.
Soon Delhi will be facing municipal polls. That will be the time to judge how well the people of the capital have responded to the performance of the AAP government. Perhaps, a verdict on AAP may come earlier when the party tries it luck in the Punjab assembly polls. But for the people of Delhi what will matter the most is how good has been the Aam Admi rule in the capital.