New Delhi: Since its disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha elections, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has embarked on an announcement spree. From free metro and bus rides for women to the installation of CCTV cameras to Wi-Fi hotspots, the Delhi government has been on a desperate overdrive in the last months before assembly elections.
The ‘freebie’ spree has drawn criticism not only from the AAP’s opponents, but from some ardent followers as well. They’ve alleged that it smacks of desperation as the AAP drew a blank in the Lok Sabha polls in the city-state.
It’s a far cry from 2013, when Kejriwal had risen from the ranks of the Anna Hazare-led Jan Lokpal movement to defeat three-term chief minister Sheila Dikshit. He had gone on to form a 49-day government with the Congress’ support in a hung assembly. Then, in 2015, the people of Delhi gave his party an unprecedented mandate of 67 seats out of 70.
AAP had made 70 promises in its 2015 manifesto. ThePrint investigates to see just how its government has fared in the last four-and-a-half years.
One of the AAP’s foremost promises was to give children from all sections of society an equal chance at getting a quality education by improving the standard of government schools, both in terms of infrastructure and curriculum. And it claims to have largely delivered on this front with a lot of innovation to put an improved education system in place in Delhi.
AAP media adviser Akshay Marathe told ThePrint that of the 500 new schools promised in the manifesto, only around 30 have come up due to land shortages, but the Kejriwal government has managed to build 8,000 new classrooms in existing schools.
“We already have 1,009 schools and the aim is to the take capacity to 21,000 classrooms by December this year,” he said, adding that even the student-classroom ratio has improved from 1:66 to 1:45.
Asked about the criticism levelled against the party for not opening more schools, AAP leader Atishi said: “Visit our government schools and you would know… it’s not a justified question.”
The education budget has gone up every year, hitting the figure of Rs 13,997 crore in 2018-19 — 26 per cent of Delhi’s entire budget.
Other steps the Kejriwal government has taken include:
– Making education free upto Class 12.
– Increasing scholarship for students scoring 80 per cent and above to Rs 2,500, and removing ‘family income’ rider on it.
– Regulating private school fees and directing 575 schools to refund excess fees.
– Scrapping the management quota in admissions.
– Scrapping 62 “arbitrary” assessment criteria for nursery admissions in private unaided schools.
– Introducing a happiness curriculum, entrepreneurship mindset curriculum, and announcing a ‘deshbhakti curriculum’ this Independence Day eve.
– Establishing school management committees to improve parent-teacher relationship, although teachers claim they lead to interference from parents.
– Installing CCTV cameras in classrooms and giving parents access to the live feed.
However, despite all these changes, the number of children going to Delhi government schools fell by 8 per cent between 2013-14 and 2017-18, according to a report by Praja Foundation, an NGO working in the education sector.
Educationist Meeta Sengupta told ThePrint: “I think AAP has done some fairly good work in Delhi schools. Of the numerous people I’ve spoken to whom I didn’t personally know, not one had anything negative to say. They actually said ‘ab toh padhai hoti hai’.”
Sengupta added that while the changes were visible as far as hard infrastructure is concerned, lasting systematic changes are required in terms of soft infrastructure.
The promise to open 20 degree colleges was junked, according to AAP members ThePrint spoke to, since affiliated colleges can be opened only under the Delhi University, which is a central university. However, the AAP government has opened several other institutions, with two more in the pipeline.
In the last week of August, CM Kejriwal and deputy CM Sisodia laid the foundation stone for two new Ambedkar University Delhi campuses at Rohini and Dheerpur village. In mid-June, they also inaugurated the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) at the Baburam School campus in Shahdara.
The AAP government has been claiming big success in providing healthcare to Delhi’s citizens. The Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinic (AAMC) project — the opening of primary healthcare centres to ensure free consultations, tests and medicines — was one of the flagship schemes. The project has been widely praised by former UN Secretary-Generals Kofi Annan and Ban ki-moon, and former Norway PM and WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland.
In 2017, the AAP government joined hands with 41 hospitals accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals, where patients can seek free surgery if the waiting period in Delhi hospitals exceeds a month.
The government initially passed strict price caps in March 2018 to check alleged profiteering by private hospitals. However, health researcher Malini Aisola, co-convener, All-India Drug Action Network, said while the AAP government had taken some positive measures, the lack of follow-up showed it didn’t treat certain health issues seriously.
“We have been disappointed in the Delhi government’s regulation of private hospitals. While the intent has been present, implementation was lacking completely as problems persist related to overcharging, violation of patients’ rights,” she said.
Kejriwal has also gone on record to say that Delhi’s health insurance scheme is better than the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat scheme, because those earning more than Rs 10,000 do not come under the central scheme. Refuting this statement, Union health minister HarshVardhan had said while states claimed to provide free healthcare through government hospitals, in reality, citizens still had to spend a lot from their pocket to get the so-called “free treatment”. He claimed Delhi’s Universal Coverage Health Scheme, announced more than a year ago, was still on the drawing board.
In terms of infrastructure, AAP’s promise of creating 900 primary health centres and adding 30,000 beds to Delhi hospitals has not been met. An official in the health department told ThePrint that only 200 primary health centres are currently running, while another 170 are to be inaugurated in a month.
The total number of hospital beds that are being added is about 11,000, according to Nimmi Rastogi, a gynaecologist and AAP member. “2,609 beds are to be added in three upcoming new hospitals in Burari, Ambedkar Nagar and Dwarka, and 8,814 beds are to be added in already existing 18 hospitals, out of which 1,800 are to be added in LNJP Hospital alone,” she said.
“Around Rs 450 crore have been allotted for this revamp. New hospitals will be commissioned soon as some are near completion.”
She also said that currently 204 mohalla clinics are operational, and many more will be inaugurated soon.
The Delhi government is also drafting a scheme that will allow retired officials to receive treatment at empanelled private hospitals in Delhi under CGHS rates.
The budgetary allocation for health this year is Rs 7,485 crore, plus Rs 100 crore for a ‘health insurance for all’ scheme. The budget, in fact, has risen every year, with the exception of 2017-18, when it fell to Rs 4,000 crore compared to the previous year’s 5,259 crore.
Electricity and renewable energy
On the power front, the AAP government announced on 1 August this year that it would give full subsidy to households consuming up to 200 units of power, while those consuming 201 to 400 units would get 50 per cent subsidy. People working on the scheme told ThePrint that the 100 per cent subsidy will extend to those who manage to keep their bills to Rs 800.
Earlier, the per-unit electricity charges for domestic users in the city were reduced, while the fixed charges per month had been increased, according to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission. In that sense, while others states increased tariffs, there hasn’t been a hike in Delhi in the past three years.
While the BJP called the move a “political stunt”, the Congress said the scheme is “inadequate”. The latter alleged the AAP failed to take action when power distribution companies overcharged residents of Delhi in the past one year.
The AAP government also drafted an electric vehicles policy and also managed to launch charging stations for them to promote the growth of the ecosystem.
Full statehood for Delhi
Full statehood for Delhi has been one of the AAP’s poll planks in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, as well as one of the promises in the 2015 assembly poll manifesto. It has often said it was unable to carry out its schemes effectively due to the central government’s interference. The tussle between the Centre and the state has been AAP’s oft-repeated reason for its inability to meet targets.
Jan Lokpal and Swaraj Bill
The party’s big-ticket promise was establishing the anti-corruption watchdog by enacting the Jan Lokpal Bill. But this remains in limbo to date. Kejriwal warned the NDA government at the Centre against impeding it, but the Modi government returned the Jan Lokpal Bill in June 2016, along with 13 other bills that were passed by the Delhi assembly.
The Lieutenant-Governor did not approve the Swaraj Bill, which had been passed by the Delhi assembly. It envisaged the formation of Mohalla Sabhas, the urban version of Gram Sabhas, through which people would get a say in the development work and fund allocation in their areas.
AAP had said that incentives would be provided for low-emission fuels like CNG and electricity to reduce pollution. However, the smog only thickened, and the Odd-Even scheme it introduced twice actually led to an overall increase in vehicular emission, according to several studies, and increased pressure on public transport. The Delhi government said it would encourage car-pooling, and has come up with its own policy on electric vehicles. Work has been on since November 2018 in this regard.
Secondly, even though the agenda was to plant 35 lakh trees across the city, forest department data shows that until July 2018, the administration had allowed the felling of over 17,115 trees in the north, south, and west zones. While not one application was denied, several remain pending even today.
CM Kejriwal in July said his government might provide free rides to senior citizens and students on public transport in the national capital.
However, on other social fronts, the government’s performance hasn’t been up to the mark. Delhi isn’t free of the drug menace— one-third of Delhi’s street children are addicted to alcohol and drugs, according to a 2018 study by AIIMS. Dealers target school children in particular, and one of every six children in East Delhi is addicted to drugs, said the study.
Accessibility for the disabled is another aspect where the Kejriwal government has been lagging behind. Despite being the national capital, Delhi remains largely inaccessible to its disabled residents, about 2 lakh in strength. On 6 February, Delhi legislative assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel announced that concessions for the disabled will be extended to the Delhi Metro, but this promise is yet to be fulfilled.
AAP had in its manifesto promised to provide 8 lakh jobs in five years but the government has been silent on the issue, which Congress leader Ajay Maken has raised time and again.
Claiming that the Delhi government has 2 lakh job vacancies, Kejriwal had promised that all contract workers would be regularised. AAP claims that the file had been passed on to the Centre, which never approved it.
The AAP government intended to create the first-ever Delhi Skill Mission to train and enable 1 lakh youth per year for the first two years, ramping up to 5 lakh youth per year for the next three years. However, a senior official of the Directorate of Training and Technical Education said the scheme didn’t work out.
The Delhi Employment Exchange, replying to a query filed by the Delhi Congress’ RTI Cell, said jobs had been given to 102 people in 2016, 66 people in 2017, and 46 people until April 2018.
Water as a right
The AAP government hasn’t delivered on its promise to provide piped water to all. Over 650 JJ (jhuggi jhopri) clusters and another 100 unauthorised colonies don’t have a connection —the Delhi Jal Board says it has only been able to provide water to seven JJ clusters till March 2019.
Residents of several clusters and colonies are dependent on Delhi Jal Board and private tankers. The number of unregistered water tankers has also gone up in Delhi, and there is no regulation of where they source water from and who they provide it to.
In May 2018, the Delhi High Court criticised the AAP government’s policy of providing 20 kilolitres of free water across the board for domestic use, saying “nothing should be given free” except where really needed.
Not much has been done about cleaning the Yamuna either. In the first week of August 2019, the Centre’s Jal Shakti ministry and the Delhi government launched a pilot project to create natural reservoirs to conserve rainwater in the Yamuna floodplains.
The Delhi government had also said it was planning at least 16 more natural sewage treatment plants. But the National Green Tribunal found in its 2018 report that only 14 per cent of 1,797 unauthorised colonies in Delhi even had sewage connections.
On the positive side, a DJB official told ThePrint that the board has linked 405 unauthorised colonies to the water supply network, including places like Dwarka which were deprived of drinking water.
The Delhi cabinet has also decided to make rainwater harvesting compulsory in all government buildings. Kejriwal said his government has come up with mechanisms to make the city “self-sufficient” on the water front, and further claimed that every household in Delhi will get clean water supply by 2024 — so clean that it would not require RO purification systems.
Promise to farmers
In July 2018, to “triple” the income of farmers in the national capital, the AAP government approved a farm solar power scheme to provide an additional income of Rs 1 lakh per acre per year to farmers.
Under the scheme, farmers would be able to provide one-third of their land to private companies on rent for Rs 1 lakh per acre on a yearly basis. The government had said that the rent would increase by 6 per cent each year.
The scheme was likely to be rolled out by March 2019, but is yet to see the light of day.
Free Wi-Fi in Delhi
One of the AAP government’s key promises finally saw some movement on 8 August this year, when it announced that Delhi will get free Wi-Fi. The government has decided to set up 11,000 hotspots — 4,000 at bus stands and the remaining in public places — as part of a pilot project. Each hotspot is expected to cover 200 users at a time.
Bureaucratic hurdles and logistical issues had jammed the scheme, as first it faced financial troubles, and then the PWD said it would not be able to execute the project due to “non-availability of sufficient staff” and “no expertise” in this field. It remains to be seen whether the target can be met before the elections.
Women’s safety and security
The Kejriwal government has failed to provide enough street lighting. It had planned to install CCTV cameras in DTC buses, at bus stands, and in crowded places as a deterrent against crime so that women could go about their jobs without any stress, but that also didn’t happen until 21 August 2019, when Delhi got 25 buses with CCTV cameras.
However, last month, the Delhi government inaugurated its CCTV camera installation drive, under which every assembly constituency would get 4,000 cameras. In July 2019, the PWD was directed to procure 1.4 lakh cameras for residential areas. Like Wi-Fi, it remains to be seen if this target can be met in time for the elections.
The numbers, though, tell a story — rape cases have gone up to 2,135 in 2018 from 702 in 2012, a 202 per cent jump. Molestation cases have seen an even steeper climb to 3,134 from the 2012 mark of 727, that is, 335 per cent in six years.
On the positive side, bus marshals have been deployed. But another major promise — of opening 47 new fast-track courts for trying crimes against women, remains unfulfilled. Only after the Delhi High Court reminded the Delhi government of its constitutional duty to ensure speedy justice and directed it to set up 18 fast-track courts did it do so.
The AAP had promised to construct affordable housing for lower income groups, claiming that 200 acres of land lay vacant with the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which could be used. However, not much headway has been made. Several stakeholders ThePrint spoke to were not able to provide clarity on the progress.
In December 2017, work on providing slum dwellers with better houses finally took off. AAP notified the Delhi Slum and JJ Relocation and Rehabilitation Policy, 2015, which mandates rehabilitation of slum dwellers within a radius of 5 km. The DUSIB had approved a pilot project of in-situ upgradation of slums, where 6,178 flats had to be constructed in Lajpat Nagar, Bhalaswa and Dev Nagar. A tender was floated for constructing 5,310 flats, but it was recalled due to poor response.
AAP had also promised the regularisation of over 1,700 unauthorised colonies. And Kejriwal finally announced the move to register them in July 2019 after his cabinet approved it.
In September 2018, the government rolled out the doorstep delivery of 40 services such as ration card, marriage certificate and driving licence. Calling it a “revolution of governance”, AAP members claimed 100 services would be provided within three months, just by dialling the helpline number 1076.
Gopal Mohan, one of the advisers to the CM on this project, told ThePrint that the response wasn’t as good as the government had expected.
“We had aimed to get 3 lakh calls in a year, but we must have received over 2 lakh,” he said, adding that perhaps there was a need to advertise it more. Thirty more services were introduced earlier this year, and another 30 are expected to be launched in October to meet the target of 100 services.
Promises to stop black market operations, hoarding and speculative trading to curb the rising prices of vegetables, fruits and other essential commodities have also led to nothing. The price of tomatoes, for example, increased by Rs 50 in August.
While the free metro and bus ride scheme for women has garnered a lot of attention nationally, last mile connectivity in Delhi’s public transit system remains unaddressed.
The DMRC’s proposal to procure feeder buses is yet to see the light of day even after tenders were floated.
Phase IV of the metro has been delayed by two years, and was rejected by the Centre in June this year due to budgetary issues. However, the Supreme Court in July asked the authorities to go ahead with the project.
A Unified Transport Authority was to be established, but the decision hasn’t been implemented. Discussing how the national capital can have an accessible, efficient and sustainable mobility system at the ‘Re-inventing Delhi’ conference organised by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and Delhi Development Authority in February this year, experts specifically shared that much of the planning and policymaking in the city “gets lost in translation” because of the multiplicity of authorities. A common mobility card scheme, however, is in place.
While AAP promised to add at least 5,000 new buses to the city’s fleet in five years, the number of DTC buses has actually gone down to 3,849 in March 2019 from 6,204 in 2010. The government has just floated a tender for 1,000 low-floor AC buses, but by the time they are inducted, more of the current fleet would have retired, a senior DTC official told ThePrint.
The AAP government on 12 June announced an 18.75 per cent hike on existing auto fares. So close to the elections, the move is seen as a measure to woo the city’s 90,000-odd auto drivers.
Opponents & critics claim AAP govt is a failure
Leaders of the BJP and the Congress claim that Kejriwal’s government has been an absolute failure.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari labelled it ‘70 promises, 74 lies’. “Kejriwal stands exposed as he could not deliver even one promise on the ground. He and his ministers are involved in large scams, focusing only on money,” the North-East Delhi MP said.
“He is trying to show a good ‘screen saver’ and maximum advertisements, but this will not help him anymore. His misgovernance has only six months left.”
Congress leader Arvinder Singh Lovely, meanwhile, said: “They have not managed to deliver on any front. They talk of the education sector. They’ve built new classrooms. But the enrolment ratio of students in government schools has gone down by one lakh. Results of classes 10 and 12 have gone down, and teachers’ vacancies have also increased.
“As for mohalla clinics, they have just started calling the existing dispensaries their ‘innovation’.”
ThePrint made repeated attempts to talk to AAP ministers and members – over phone, email and text messages – and seek their comments for this report. But with the exception of the two leaders quoted above on the issue of education, no others agreed to speak.
On 1 August, however, Kejriwal defended his government at a press conference, saying: “We had said we will fulfil these promises in five years. All will be fulfilled before the completion of five years. Ek-ek karke kar rahe hain (We’re doing it one-by-one).”
(With inputs from Abhishek Mishra)
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.