“We are starting our journey from this holy ground and I am hopeful with this broom we will be able to cleanse society”. Thus spoke Mr Arvind Kejriwal, AAP’s national convenor on 3 August 2013, while launching the AAP “broom” from Delhi’s Valmiki Complex, the residential colony of hundreds of sweepers.
Well, rising from the ranks of the Anna Hazare-led Jan Lokpal movement, AAP’s humble electoral debut 8 years ago, is a force to reckon with in today’s political arena, at least, in so far as the National Capital Territory of Delhi is concerned.
In 2013, AAP won 28 of 70 seats in Delhi Legislative Assembly election and formed a minority government with conditional support from the Indian National Congress. 49 days later, after its inability to garner political support to pass the Jan Lokpal bill in the Assembly, it resigned.
Subsequently, in 2015 AAP returned to power in the Delhi Assembly, winning 67 out of 70 seats and in 2020, it has yet again won 62 out of 70 seats to form the next government.
With the BJP scoring a single digit (8 votes) and the Congress, even failing to open its account for the second consequent time, primarily, the AAP’s winning formula is attributed to the development initiatives crafted and executed by Mr Kejriwal. His governance model to invest considerably in public welfare has brought succour to Delhi’s poorest and most vulnerable in the form of better and accessible health care and education besides water and public transport.
But Mr Kejriwal faced many a challenge in day-to-day working leave alone implementing his poll promises. Because, as soon as the AAP came to power, media reports had indicated how the Centre assumed powers of transfers and postings of bureaucrats in the national capital and how the rift between the Lieutenant Governor and the AAP government had to be settled through judicial intervention.
Yes, after a long legal battle, the Supreme Court’s ruling of 4 July 2018 provided the much needed clarity. The Apex Court while upholding the Parliament’s power to make laws for the National Capital Territory of Delhi, called upon the Lieutenant Governor and Delhi Government to work in harmony. It added that the “decisions of the state government, however, will not require the concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor though they have to be communicated to him. The Lieutenant Governor has not been entrusted with any independent decision making power. He has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of Council of Ministers or he is bound to implement the decision taken by the President on a reference being made by him”.
Compared to many large states in the country spending on an average about 5.3 per cent of their budget on healthcare, AAP government’s allocation on health is nearly 13 per cent. As compared to about Rs 1800 crore allocated in 2012-13 towards health, after coming to power, AAP substantially increased the allocation over the years to nearly Rs 7500 crore in 2019-20. Notably, the out-patient burden on government hospitals in Delhi has reportedly reduced, thanks to the three-tier universal healthcare system – comprising Mohalla clinics (essentially a neighbourhood free primary healthcare set up) polyclinics and hospitals. Under the Mohalla clinic facility, some 109 essential medicines and 212 diagnostic tests are available for free. Last year more than two crore OPD patients patronised the Mohalla facility and 18 lakh tests were done. This initiative has been lauded by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon including ex-Norwegian premier Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former director-general including of World Health Organisation.
Likewise, Delhi Government’s education budget, which has been seeing significant increase year after year during AAP’s rule is about 26 per cent of the total budget. Thanks to the increase in funds, over 8,000 new classrooms have been built and more than 12,000 classrooms have been upgraded with new amenities. Education is free up to class 12 in government schools. Management quota for admissions in private institutions has been scrapped. Students scoring 80 per cent and above are eligible to receive scholarships amounting to Rs 2,500 irrespective of family income. To improve the in-class performance of teachers and staff, more than 200 teachers have trained at the National Institute of Education in Singapore. “Happiness curriculum” in Delhi Government schools, yet another novel initiative i naugurated by the Dalai Lama on 2 July 2018, focusses on holistic education, which also includes meditation, value education and mental exercises in conventional education curriculum. Students in grades 1-8 are engaged in self-awareness processes of mindfulness, reflection activities and storytelling in the first period of every school day. A form of value based learning, Happiness curriculum, is focused on helping children manage their life better.
When it comes to electricity, in Delhi, power up to 200 units every month is free for households and up to 400 units, it is subsidised by 50 per cent. Similarly piped water is provided for every household; 20,000 litres is free. Effective last October, public transport bus service is free for women in Delhi. Of the 42 lakh people who daily use such buses, one third are women.
Among the priorities of the AAP government in its third tenure, apart from free bus rides for students, deshbhakti curriculum and doorstep delivery of rations, the “guarantee card” released by Mr Kejriwal is to be fulfilled in a phased manner. This includes 24 hours uninterrupted power supply and 200 units of free electricity for all. The city is to be freed from the web of wires and electricity will reach each household through an underground cable. 24-hour pure piped drinking water would be supplied to each house in the next five years and said the scheme of providing 20,000 litres of free water will continue. Every child in Delhi would receive world-class education facility. Affordable, accessible and advanced healthcare facilities to every family through Mohalla Clinics and state of art hospitals. Biggest and cheapest transport facility has been planned for the city and more than 11,000 buses and 500-kilometre Metro stretch to provide last mile connectivity. Air pollution to be controlled and brought down to a third of the current level. 2 crore trees would be planted and Yamuna to be cleaned and rejuvenated. Delhi to be garbage-free in the next five years. To make the city safer for women, “Mohalla Marshals” are to be deployed. Road, water supply, sewer, CCTV and mohalla clinics to be provided at unauthorised colonies. Pucca houses to be provided to people living in slums under the 'Jahan Jhuggi Wahin Makan' scheme.
What we need today are not grand schemes with mega budgets but workable schemes aimed at improving the lives of public at large. AAP’s past performance has been responsible for its return to power for the second consequent term. In terms of popularity, reportedly 10 lakh new members have joined the AAP soon after the Delhi Vidhan Sabha election results were declared. It is imperative that the AAP government ought to fulfil the election promises, successfully implement its well-intentioned plans and look beyond Delhi to become a major force at the national level.(Published on 17th February 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 08)