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AAP takes leaf out of Punjab win, tables ‘Rozgaar’ budget for Delhi as model for national agenda

Allocation of Rs 800 cr for job generation in Delhi follows the success of party's employment plank in Punjab, which helped it realise that unemployment is a common worry across India.

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New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s theme of “rozgaar” (employment) for the 2022-23 Delhi budget, is a strategic choice in light of its plans for national expansion, ThePrint has learnt. This follows the party’s massive victory in the Punjab assembly elections earlier this month — where it won 92 of 117 assembly seats — with the state’s unemployment woes as one of its main poll planks.

Senior party functionaries told ThePrint that the victory in Punjab helped the party realise that jobs is a common issue across states, adding that “rozgaar” theme of the Delhi budget plays a larger role in the party’s national narrative.

The AAP government in Delhi has allocated Rs 800 crore, from a total outlay of Rs 75,800 crore for the 2022-23 financial year, for initiatives exclusively aimed at job generation, said Deputy Chief Minister and Delhi Finance Minister Manish Sisodia, while presenting the budget in the assembly Saturday.

The AAP government in Delhi plans to generate a projected 20 lakh (2 million) jobs in the national capital in the next five years, which will require an estimated investment of Rs 4,500 crore, said Sisodia.

According to the budget document, the government has already identified some areas where there opportunities could be created.

The initiatives aimed at generating jobs include organising an annual shopping festival, redevelopment of five existing markets, using excess space in bus depots to develop premium shopping malls, creating food hubs, encouraging cloud kitchens and food trucks, and building an electronic city, stated the budget document, now available in the public domain.

The government also plans to generate jobs by giving a fresh push to its green energy initiatives — which, according to the budget document, involves the creation of a projected 20,000 jobs in the electronic vehicle infrastructure network, on which the government is currently working, 40,000 jobs in rooftop solar installation projects, and 25,000 jobs for women under the Smart Urban Farming initiative.

The Delhi government has been pushing urban farming since last year, organising a two-day expo on it in November 2021, and also launched a campaign to endorse it last month. The project is aimed at enabling small-scale agriculture activities on terraces, balconies and within compounds of residential and official buildings.

While presenting the budget, Sisodia said that the AAP government in Delhi has generated 1.78 lakh government jobs since 2015, while an online employment exchange portal — “Rozgaar Bazaar” — launched by it during the pandemic in 2020, has helped around 10 lakh (1 million) people get jobs.

In its 2015 election manifesto for Delhi, the AAP had said it will generate 8 lakh jobs in the national capital. The AAP won both the 2015 and 2020 assembly polls in Delhi, taking 67 and 62 seats respectively, in the 70-member Assembly.

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The Punjab push

Since coming to power, The Bhagwant Mann led AAP government in Punjab has ordered 25,000 government jobs to be created in the state and services of 35,000 contractual employees to be regularised.

A senior official in the finance department of the Delhi government told ThePrint Saturday that the theme for this year’s Delhi budget was originally to have been “Swaraj”, which would give option to residents of the national capital to share their opinions on schemes, policies and sector-wise funds allocations.

“A lot of last-minute changes were incorporated after the Punjab victory. Though, in the initial plans too jobs were supposed to be created. But following the Punjab election win, the Delhi government went on to give a major push to employment, with many new proposals inserted in the budget, and made ‘rozgaar’ the main theme of the budget,” said the official.

Delhi’s ‘rozgaar budget’ comes at a time when following the party’s massive victory in Punjab, the AAP is taking bold steps towards making itself visible in more states —  in line with its plans for national expansion. The party appointed new office-bearers in nine states Monday, entrusting them with building a volunteer base, helping with organisational structure and preparing for polls.

Top AAP leaders have their calendars booked for the next three weeks with a conclave in Rajasthan, two roadshows in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and rallies to be held in Telangana and Chhattisgarh. In all these states, the AAP is using the idea of a development model, citing Delhi as an example, as its poll plank, other than highlighting issues such as unemployment, senior AAP leaders said.

“The Delhi government’s job generation initiatives are likely to have a major impact at a time when AAP is expanding across states, many of which have assembly elections coming up in the next two years, and is looking to play a major role in the 2024 general elections. It will further help set an example of the ‘Delhi model’, since unemployment is a major issue in India currently,” said a second Delhi government official.

Economic indicators

The second official added, “This is the right time for the Delhi government to give a push to job generation, because the economic indicators are headed in the right direction. There is more room for implementation and success of policies aimed at job generation.”

In the opening speech of the budget session Wednesday, Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal said that the national capital’s gross domestic product (GDP) has gone up by 50 per cent since 2016-17, indicating that the city’s economy is in a strong position.

According to the 2021-22 Delhi Economic Survey presented in the Assembly Friday, Delhi’s per capita income grew 16.81 per cent to reach Rs 4,01,982 in the 2021-22 fiscal from Rs 3,44,136 during the 2020-21 fiscal, putting Delhi in third place in among states with highest per capita incomes. Sikkim and Goa are the top two India states in terms of per capita income, said Sisodia.

This year’s total budget outlay of Rs 75,800 crore, is also higher than last fiscal’s allocation of Rs 69,000 crore.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: AAP govt gives nod, 17 of 54 cases filed against farmers for farm laws protest to be withdrawn


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