Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s letter to Haryana CM on Munak Canal issue; compensation given to CRPF jawan

  • Delhi chief minister’s letter to Haryana CM on release of water for Munak canal
  • Delhi government announces Rs one crore compensation for CRPF jawan killed in a landmine blast
  • Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal & Deputy Chief Minister Shri Manish Sisodia attend the cremation of CRPF jawan, Narottam Das at his village in Najafgarh

New Delhi: 26/02/2015

Delhi chief minister Mr Arvind Kejriwal wrote to the chief minister of Haryana, Mr Manohar Lal Khattar on the issue of Munak carrier lined channel (CLC).

In his letter, Mr Kejriwal has informed that it has been brought to his notice that the Haryana Irrigation Department has substantially reduced the release of raw water, which could lead to major disruptions in production of drinking water in the national capital.

The Delhi chief minister has offered to meet Mr Khattar at Chandigarh along with his team of officers to discuss and resolve the issue.

Delhi government announces Rs one crore compensation for CRPF jawan killed in a landmine blast

Chief minister Mr Arvind Kejriwal and deputy chief minister Mr Manish Sisodia attended the cremation of CRPF jawan, Narottam Das at his village in Najafgarh on Thursday morning.

He had lost his life in a landmine blast at Gaya district of Bihar by suspected Maoists earlier this week.

After meeting the bereaved family members, the chief minister announced a compensation of Rs one crore for the family of martyr Narottam Das.

Mr Kejriwal said Narottam laid down his life while performing his duty and the state government will honour his sacrifice.

The chief minister expressed the hope that the martyr’s wife will be provided a job by the CRPF and if required, the Delhi state government will offer her a job.



Why AAP Opposes The Land Acquisition Ordinance: Part-3

This is the third and final post in a series on the land acquisition ordinance.

In my two previous posts, I have attempted to explain the nuances that the Ordinance has forgotten completely. In this last and final post, I will expose the many U-Turns of the BJP-led NDA government on the issue of land acquisition. We can only hope that the BJP returns to what it originally thought right for the farmers and citizens of India. Or maybe that was also election rhetoric?

Anyway, here’s an analysis in two short annexures. :

Annexure 1: BJP’s U-Turn on 2011 Sumitra Mahajan Committee Report

  1. Public purpose and acquisition for private companies and PPPs

2011 Bill: The Bill provides that land may be acquired for use by the government for its own use, control; or for the purpose of use by private companies; or for public private partnerships (PPPs) and also private companies for the use of public purpose. It provides that the provisions relating to rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) shall be applicable in case of acquisition for private companies and for PPPs.
The term “public purpose‟ in the Bill includes provision of land for, (a) strategic defence purposes and national security, (b) roads, railways, highways, and ports, built by government and public sector enterprises (c) project affected people, (d) planned development or improvement of villages, and (e) residential purposes for the poor and landless. Public purpose includes other government projects, which benefit the public as well as provision of public goods and services by private companies or PPPs; these require the consent of 80 per cent of project-affected people.

2011 Sumitra Mahajan Report: The Committee recommended that land should not be acquired for use by PPPs and private companies. Public purpose should be limited to state sponsored projects as defined in Clause 3(za)(i) to (vi)(A). The provisions relating to acquisition of land for private companies and PPPs should be deleted (Clause 3(za)(vi)(B) and (vii)].

2014 Ordinance: The government’s amendment would mean that now social Impact assessment, food security assessment & consent of 70% of land owners will not be required before acquiring land for five broad categories that the government has specified (more on these categories in point 2). Thus for all practical purposes, we are back to the draconian 1894 Act which peoples movements had fought to change.

  1. Infrastructure projects – Clause 3 (o) (i – v)

2011 Bill: The Bill defines “infrastructure projects” to include projects related to the generation of electricity, telecommunication services, roads and highways, water supply, and any other project that may be notified by the government.

2011 Sumitra Mahajan Report: The Committee recommended that Clause 3 (o) (v) gives wide discretion to the government to define infrastructure projects should be deleted. The Committee recommended that infrastructure projects should be included in the definition of public purpose.

2014 Ordinance: The government proposes to exempt five categories of Acquisitions from the procedural requirements of the 2013 Act. These five categories are: defence, industrial corridors, rural infrastructure, affordable housing including housing for the poor and any infrastructure including social infrastructure in PPP mode where the land is owned by the government. As YY states in his note, every project is some sort of infrastructure project or housing project.

  1. Role of local self-government institutions

2011 Bill: The Bill provides that the Gram Sabha shall be consulted at time of preparing the SIA and at the time of issuing the preliminary notification for acquisition.

2011 Sumitra Mahajan Report: The Committee recommended that the Bill should be amended to provide for more participation by local self-government institutions. There is a need to provide in greater detail the role of the Gram Sabha. The role should not be limited to merely consultation, but their consent should be obtained in all the matters pertaining to acquisition and R&R.
The local elected authorities should be entrusted with the decision making process regarding issues such as acquisition of land, review of R&R schemes, determination of compensation, and any dispute regarding the compensation awarded. The Committee recommended that the Expert Group evaluating the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report should also have one or members nominated from the affected Gram Sabha.
The Committee also recommended that a Schedule V should be added to the Bill mapping out the devolution of powers with respect to the Panchayats in rural areas and Municipalities in urban areas.

2014 Ordinance: It simply does away with it.

Annexure 2: Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj’s Comments from Debate on Land Acquisition: August 29th 2013

Given below are a few choice quotes that were used by the Honourable Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh in August 2013 regarding the issue of land acquisition:

Land is not just a commodity. It is just not about economic activity. The issue of land is associated with the emotions and culture of farmers.

I want to say that one should never take hasty decision in the matter of land acquisition.

Will there be forced acquisition even after this bill? From the cursory reading of the bill, it seems that is the case.

For all land acquisitions, the Social impact assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment should be mandatory and should be done before the acquisition is made, not after the acquisition is made.

We wish to eliminate clause 9 that gives the right to government to acquire land under urgency provision. All kind of acquisitions must go through prior SIA and EIA.

We believe that unless farmer gives his consent, arable land must not be acquired. If acquisition happens, we will have huge food security problem.

If a farmer objects against acquisition and if a government takes a decision on it, farmer can not appeal against the decision. This is a draconian provision. The farmer should be able to go to court.

Clause 38 under which a collector can acquire a land with three days of notice should be abolished.

We can only hope that someone gets Shri Rajnath Singh a printout of his speech from August 29th 2013 and remind himself of the stand that he once took for farmers.

Similarly Sushma Swaraj ji had once said in April 2013:

Instead of acquisition, it would be better to lease the land to the developer as the land will remain with the farmer and would provide him with regular annual income. If the land is not utilized for the purpose for which it was leased, it could be returned to the farmer.

Swaraj has supported Ramesh’s contention that there needs to be provision for retrospective application of the Bill, especially when it comes to the rehabilitation and resettlement clauses – an aspect that has worried industry. Swaraj demanded that the Social Impact Assessment Study and the Environmental Impact Assessment Study should involve the local MP, MLA and even the NGOs who work in the area.

Why does the BJP seem to sing one tune when in power and another when not in power?

The Farmers of India are knocking at Delhi’s doorstep asking its political masters that fundamental question. I hope you will too.

Why AAP Opposes The Land Acquisition Ordinance: Part-2

This is the second post in a series of posts on the land acquisition ordinance.

Aam Aadmi Party, along with many people’s movements has opposed the Ordinance to Amend the Land acquisition (RFCTLARR) Act of 2013 on the ground that it exempts most land acquisitions from Consent, Social Audit and Food Security Audit provisions.

Now that a copy of the Ordinance is available, it is clear that the news is worse than we thought. The Govt. has inserted many other amendments as well, all of them against the interests of the farmers. Some of these are:

  1. Earlier the acquisition for private purposes was limited to ‘Private Companies’, which are registered under the Companies Act. Now it has been extended to any ‘Private Entity’ that includes proprietorship, partnership, NGO or any other entity.
  1. In the name of infrastructure, now the government can acquire land for private educational institutions and private hospitals as well, which were specifically excluded by the original Act (Amendment to Section 1 b (i))
  1. As reported earlier, all projects related to defence have been exempted. The crucial thing is that ‘defence’ has been defined now to include “any project vital to national security” and “defence production”. This definition can include all kinds of infrastructural projects and privately owned projects. (Insertion of new Section 10A)
  1. Original Act gave relief to those farmers whose lands were acquired more than 5 years ago but where the process was not completed till now. They were to be given the benefit of compensation under the new Act. Now the Amendment limits this benefit to only those few cases where the delay was not due to any judicial order or pending case.(Amendment to Section 24 (2))
  1. The original stringent provision about punishment for violation of this Act by any government official has been reversed. Earlier the Head of the Department was held responsible if the violation took place with their knowledge and connivance. The Amendment removes this provision and actually provides special immunity to the Govt. officials under Section 197 of CCP. There won’t be any action against a Govt official fro violating this Act without sanction from the Govt. (Amendment to Section 87)
  1. The original provision of returning the land to original owner if not utilized within 5 years has been removed. Now the Govt can retain the land for longer without utilizing it, if the “period specified for the project” is longer. (Amendment to Section 101)
  1. The Govt has given itself the power of “removal of difficulty” for five years, instead of the original two years. (Amendment to Section 113)

Basically every positive feature of the original Act (which was passed with BJP’s active support) has been annulled. All those who respect democracy and who care for the farmers must oppose this Ordinance.

Why AAP Opposes the Land Acquisition Ordinance: Part-I

This is the first post in a three-part series on the Land Acquisition Ordinance.

The Land Acquisition Ordinance has been brought in by the BJP-led Narendra Modi government bypasses all constitutional norms and rules of legislation, throwing Delhi’s farmers, agricultural community and citizens of rural Delhi to the whims of big business. Rural Delhi, like much of India’s agricultural community will bear the brunt of the government’s rush to accommodate exclusive development.

Delhi has 35 lakh rural citizens who have been consistently been neglected by the ruling powers. Their situation is at par with the aborigines in Australia and Native Americans in the United States, and has been one of the most systematically disadvantaged citizens of the country. Their land rights have been taken away by dystopian sections of the Delhi Land Reform Act and now the amended Land Ordinance. Huge chunks of North West, South West and South Delhi are affected by this land ordinance, and the Aam Aadmi Party firmly stands against this anti-people anti-constitutional ordinance and draconian outdated Delhi Act. We vow to repeal and rescind outdated sections of the Delhi Land Reform Act like Section 33, Section 81 when we come to power in Delhi. And we continue to give our unconditional support to Delhi’s farmers who are troubled by this anti-farmer Land Ordinance.

First of all, the Ordinance violates the basic spirit of why ordinance is needed. Ordinance route has been provided for in order to meet an emergency situation in-between two sessions of parliament. What was the emergency in this case? The next session is in the third week of February. Why could the government not wait till then?

Second, the amendment will nullify the hard earned gains of movements against forced acquisition and displacement. After a long struggle and negotiation, these movements had forced the government to agree to some basics:

  • that the land acquisition must not take place without consent
  • that land acquisition must not be permitted in multi-crop land where it goes against food security
  • that acquisition must be preceded by an assessment of its impact not just on land owners but on the society as a whole

The government’s amendment would mean that now social Impact assessment, food security assessment & consent of 70% of land owners will not be required before acquiring land for five broad categories that the government has specified (more on these categories in point 2). Thus for all practical purposes, we are back to the draconian 1894 Act which peoples movements had fought to change.

Third, the government proposes to exempt five categories of Acquisitions from the procedural requirements of the 2013 Act. These five categories are: defence, industrial corridors, rural infrastructure, affordable housing including housing for the poor and any infrastructure including social infrastructure in PPP mode where the land is owned by the government. Just look at these four categories and imagine what greedy builders, politicians and bureaucrats can do with these five categories. Basically they would be able to fit every acquisition under one of these five categories. so, in effect the Amendment annuls the Act itself. Additionally, one of the many provisions of BJP amendments to the land acquisition bill affects only the purchase of land by the government or done through the government for public-private-participation projects. It does not affect at all private purchase of land under 50 acres urban or 100 acres rural; which is the vast majority of transactions leaving aside mega industrial projects. A private company can circumvent this threshold by purchasing multiple parcels of land, each under the prescribed limit, through other entities.

Fourth, the Act of 2013 was passed with support from most political parties including the BJP. Ms. Sumitra Mahajan, the current speaker, headed the parliamentary Committee that cleared the bill. What has changed since then?

Fifth, the Act has not got a fair chance so far. Most states have not framed Rules necessary for its implementation. How come it has been found to be impractical without even a trial?

The most important thing is to probably note that the BJP has made this a debate between farmers vs. growth and farmers vs. other citizens, when the simple truth is that the BJP has decided to favor big business and industry in the hope that the farmers will not understand or challenge its move. The simple truth is that it’s not just the farmers that lose, it is all citizens who will lose. For example, earlier, when land remained unutilized and compensation hadn’t been claimed, farmers used to get their land back. Now it is vested in the blatantly misused and politically influenced Gram Sabha instead of farmer’s having a share in the common land. It used to be used for ponds, greenery, environment and community-based enterprises, which all citizens could enjoy. This decision by the government is anti-farmer, anti-citizen and anti-India.

In a series of posts, I will attempt to deconstruct the land acquisition ordinance and justify AAP’s opposition to this land acquisition ordinance. Stay tuned for more.

Lieutenant Governor’s Address to the Delhi Vidhan Sabha 2015

Respected Speaker and Honourable Members,

I warmly welcome you all to the first session of the Sixth Legislative Assembly of Delhi.

It is with great humility and profound hope that my government accepts the mandate given to it by the people of Delhi.  It is a mandate that carries the dreams and aspirations of young and old, poor and rich, women and men, regardless of caste, creed or religion. There is one unifying, resounding message that the people have sent out. They want good governance that emerges out of clean politics and to achieve this they have shown their eagerness to engage with the political process. In an age of cynicism they have put their faith in the political philosophy of participative and consultative democracy that alone can lead us to Purna Swaraj that is, self-rule. My government intends to deepen and strengthen our democracy by involving people in issues that affect them on a daily basis. My government will dismantle the barriers that have come up between the elected and the electors.

My government believes that good governance should reflect the concerns of all sections of society. Equally, development must include the well-being of every citizen – that is, it must be inclusive. The goal of a safe and progressive Delhi that can hold its own amongst the best capital cities of the world cannot be achieved unless each and every citizen feels safe to pursue their livelihood, their way of life and faith. For that has been Delhi’s way. Indeed, that is the essence of the idea of India.

My government shall endeavour to be transparent, participative and interactive. We will make every effort  to establish the Janlokpal in Delhi to ensure a time-bound investigation in corruption cases. Whistleblowers shall be provided protection from harassment.

In a major move toward devolution of power to the people, my government shall seek to legislate the Swaraj Act so as to enable the local communities to have a say on issues affecting their daily lives. For this purpose a Citizen Local Area Development (C-LAD) Fund will be provided to local communities.

Further, it is the intention of my government to push for full statehood for Delhi, which has been a long-standing demand of the people of Delhi.  The provision of critical public services such as law and order and low-cost housing would happen more smoothly if Delhi were accorded autonomy as a full-fledged state with greater control over these aspects. The Centre’s publicly stated position of promoting cooperative federalism will hopefully help in securing genuine autonomy for Delhi’s governance. Only then can the problems created by a multiplicity of authorities and jurisdictions in Delhi be solved.

The ultimate aim is to ensure that institutions such as the DDA, MCD and Delhi Police are accountable to the elected government of Delhi. This will help bridge the gap between the government and the people by creating greater coordination among civic services with regard to service delivery.

Just as in its earlier tenure, this time too My government will be responsive to the need for lowering the crushing burden of accessing basic public utilities such as power and water. The policies framed will not only benefit those who already have access to these facilities, they will pay special heed to colonies that have been deprived of formal electricity and water connections.

As for the capacity to fund public services, it may be pointed out that Delhi inherently has the potential for raising higher resources due to its robust economy. In fact the Delhi State GDP in recent years has grown impressively at several percentage points above the national average. Delhi has also had a history of budget surpluses. This financial year Delhi has a total budget of around Rs.37,000 crore which, if used optimally, can truly create a new blueprint of development. How effectively and honestly these funds are deployed is the key to meeting our commitment of inclusive and holistic development. It is not a paucity of funds that has kept the citizens bereft of basic public services. The crucial question is this: how effectively are those services being delivered on the ground to the very poor. My government will rigorously do a resource audit whether it is in the area of providing electricity or water or other public services. We are convinced that Delhi has enough resources to transform it into a modern and prosperous capital city where every citizen finds a space for herself or himself.

My government shall be unwavering in its commitment to ensuring that Delhi remains a state where women feel as much at home and at ease as men in pursuing their livelihood and social pursuits – proudly leading from the front. . My government will not let any fund crunch come in the way of putting in place safety and security measures for women. As regards mobility, my government will exert itself to provide effective last mile connectivity in Delhi’s public transit system to ensure that its women are able to travel safely and securely. To ensure speedy justice, my government will create fast-track courts dedicated to handling cases of sexual assault and other crimes against women. It will create a Mahila Suraksha Dal by redeploying members of the Home Guard and Civil Defense Volunteers.  Further, my government will facilitate the appointment of new judges to ensure that the judicial system works fast and effectively.

In line with our idea of making Delhi a digital capital city par excellence, we have an effective plan to create Wi-Fi hotspots at various public locations in Delhi. This will also provide an impetus to education, entrepreneurship, business and employment as well as tie in with women’s safety initiatives.

To further this end of a capital city of excellence, my government will focus on strengthening and expanding educational and health infrastructure. It will build new schools with a special focus on secondary and senior secondary schools to ensure that every child in Delhi has easy access to quality education. We will endeavour to streamline the nursery admission process, minimizing  avenues of corruption. In the sector of Higher Education my government will make every effort to formulate schemes where every youth can pursue a diploma or degree course regardless of his or her financial status. We will build new colleges under Delhi administration in partnership with the people of Delhi. The existing seat capacity of Delhi government administered colleges will be enhanced, including at Delhi’s flagship university, the Ambedkar University.

My government will increase the budgetary allocation on healthcare infrastructure. My government will build new Primary Health Centers (PHCs) and add new beds to Delhi hospitals, especially in maternity wards. Quality drugs will be provided at an affordable price — pharmaceutical drug and equipment procurement will be centralized to cut out corruption.

Historically, Delhi has been a city of flourishing trade and my government is committed to making it a trade and retail hub once again by creating a friendly tax environment for traders. The government is firm on its commitment to insulate Delhi’s traders from the inspector raj. We will discourage raids on traders and create a bond of trust between them and the government. We want to create a policy framework where every businessman and businesswoman in the country would like to come to Delhi to establish new enterprises.

An important priority of my government concerns Delhi’s villages which over the years have become islands of neglect. My government will take steps to ensure that the people living in these spaces are able to partake the fruits of growth as well. Decisions regarding the development of Delhi’s villages will be taken with their consent. The sectors of agriculture and animal husbandry will receive incentives and infrastructural support. We shall seek to provide sports facilities in villages to encourage young adults to pursue sports. Connectivity to rural Delhi will be enhanced through increased bus and metro services.

In its effort to make Delhi a state that reaches out to its last citizen my government will create opportunities for new jobs in the next five years. The government will create an enabling environment for innovative and private startup accelerators to provide support to entrepreneurs. The focus will be on creating an ecosystem that enables private industry to create more jobs. In line with this idea, my government will encourage startups by setting up business and technology incubators in universities and colleges. Delhi government will also create affordable business incubation space.

In the past, earlier governments made announcements regularizing unauthorised colonies. Moving forward from these announcements, my government will take a more realistic and effective approach to regularise unauthorised colonies in Delhi, transforming resettlement colonies and slums, bringing them within the ambit of Delhi as a  truly global and modern capital city.

Honourable Speaker and Members, I have presented a brief sketch of my government’s intent and action plan to return Delhi to the people over the next five years. I wish you all success in this fruitful endeavour.

Cleaning Delhi’s Air: Aam Aadmi Style

Aam Aadmi Party believes that environmental policy should seek to bolster growth and development by promoting public good by applying the principles of ecological sustainability, social justice and inter-generational equity. It should not be piecemeal legislation or an afterthought but is part of the main framework of growth and development. As a result our party’s 70-point action plan, manifesto and blueprint of Delhi reflect this thoughtfulness as we seek to treat Delhi’s intractable air pollution problems.

For example, consider our electricity policy. AAP will provide cheap electricity to Delhi by fixing billing and meter defects, improve transmission and conduct a discom audit. However, we want to provide Delhi with clean electricity too! The AAP government will bid for clean power from Bhakra Nangal hydropower plant, overhaul or revamp Delhi’s polluting and non-functioning Rajghat Power plant and also bring the Bawana power plant to full utilization. Transformation in Delhi’s power generation composition will reduce air pollution. Further, AAP will facilitate a phased shift to renewable and alternate sources of energy. Incentives will be given to households, housing societies, enterprise and industry to gradually switch over to renewable energy. We are committed to ensuring that 20 percent of Delhi’s energy needs are met through solar energy by 2025.

A recent Yale University study termed us as the most polluted city, especially on PM and SPM metrics. To correct this, the Delhi Ridge, the lung of the city, will be protected from encroachment and deforestation. Environmentally appropriate afforestation would be carried out. We will acquire mechanized vacuum cleaning vehicles to clean the city’s dirt.

The Government will encourage car-pooling, ensure adherence to the highest fuel emissions standards, promote low emission fuels like CNG and increase research on electricity as a fuel to improve our transport infrastructure. Most importantly, public transport and last mile connectivity will be radically improved to reduce the number of cars on the road.

A good city is not one where the poor have cars but rather the rich use public transport. Let’s strive to make Delhi a world-class pollution free city that you can be proud of. We are happy to listen to your feedback and suggestions.

The Aam Aadmi Party government is now here to stay and solve this intractable problem!

Breathe easy! Literally!

That Was The Week That Was: Delhi Election 2015 Edition

The events of the past week have been overwhelming. Pardon me for I have just been able to compose myself to get my metaphorical pen on paper.

If I thought my job was done with the manifesto and white papers for the Aam Aadmi Party, I was mistaken. I had the tiresome pleasure of managing the emergency helpline for 60 hours non-stop till 6 pm on 7th February 2015 where we fire fought across the city in an attempt to stop the distribution of alcohol and money; promotion of violence and illicit means to swing votes away from us from Badarpur to Badli, from Babarpur to Bawana. We sat in anticipation for the verdict that the citizens of Delhi would deliver to us, which could sound the war conch for positive politics or the death knell to the first true political alternative.

And then, the magic happened. The political party that won a clear majority at the Center under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah had been rejected and held back by a diminutive ragtag force of volunteers from every class, caste, religion, gender and region of the world. And how! 67 seats in the legislative assembly out of 70! It was an unprecedented victory, broke the record books of Indian electoral politics and left me stunned. Even the most conservative Fermi guesstimate would have pegged the number of hugs and screams I let out on 10th February 2015 at a few thousand.

I had returned to New Delhi after a few years of graduate school at Stanford to work for a political party that was at its nadir and a leader whose life, work, integrity and strategy at being the first true viable alternative in Indian politics was being questioned and ridiculed. June 2014, the month that I joined AAP, was not the best time to openly declare yourself as an Arvind Kejriwal fanboy or fight for the Aam Aadmi Party or as it was known in AAP-bashing circles: “The Socialist Naxalite Communist Marxist Leninist Sexist Racist Aam Aadmi Party.” And yet every bone, muscle and tendon in my body wanted to do it. And I did.

While some courteous and kind friends and relatives applauded my decision as fearless and respectable, I knew that a majority thought me to fit to be checked into a mental hospital, assumed I had received poor grades and/or had a criminal history that I wanted to hide from the United States. I chuckled and moved on. I was ready to slum it out for the ideals of the man I respected and fight for the moral ethos and genuine alternative that the Aam Aadmi Party espoused even if it meant fighting with just a few MLAs that the Modi Wave would have left us in Delhi. I had returned to work with a handful of MLAs and now we have a government and 67! I was simply astonished. Hyperboles also known as Ravi Shastri similes, for the first time, weren’t enough.

My personal journey within the party has made me meet some of the best humans and selfless individuals I’ve met till date on whom books should and will be written and grown my skills in media management/briefing, policy research, manifesto writing, data analytics, psephology, and most importantly getting a better understanding of the problems and solutions of the city I call home. Somehow through a series of fortunate events that included positive politics, coherent campaigns, mindful media management and kudrati karishmas, we ended up winning the first battle of Delhi through the Aam Aadmi Tsunami.

And yet it hadn’t sunk in. The victory was full of joy and laughter and incredulous looks and screams and more of all of that on loop every hour everyday. But there was some emotion that was missing. Something that hadn’t been triggered.

And then, 14th February 2015 happened. The Aam Aadmi Party government, nah, the Aam Aadmi was sworn in to power with Arvind Kejriwal as its Chief Minister. 100,000 people were in attendance with millions more in their homes and in front of their TV screens. And then Arvind Kejriwal came and said:

“Main Arvind Kejriwal Ishwar ki Shapath Leta Hoon”

And the floodgates opened. I wept profusely for the first time in years in what can only be described as a potpourri of emotions. I was hugged and consoled and loved by the many selfless souls I mentioned above with jokes and by revisiting funny moments of the campaign. And then I slipped away to the side and wept silently for some more. For all their jokes, even my most cheerful colleagues had a tear on their eyelids. For months, an Aam Army had fought with a singularity of purpose and that had happened. Unbelievable. For a love story that had gone astray on 14th February 2014, Delhi received its most beautiful makeup/reunion on the Valentine’s Day gift on 14th February 2015.

The impossible had happened. And there is a lot more impossible yet to do. My childhood dream of bringing Anil Kapoor’s Nayak to life from SET Max has gotten a start in my lifetime. The second half i.e. Office begins tomorrow. To those of you still reading through this stream of consciousness, I thank you once again for entrusting the reins of governance in Delhi to us at the Aam Aadmi Party. We are incredibly humbled and almost scared by the immense responsibility that you have placed on our shoulders. However, you are also our source of strength and we are confident that, along with your continued support and blessings, we will make Delhi the corruption-free world class city that you will be proud of.

Godspeed You! Aam Aadmi 🙂

Photo: No weeping pictures here. I share a picture from a happier moment on 10th February 2015. That moment when even CNN-IBN, Zee News, India TV had called my boss, Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi. He hugged me and said “Ab yeh jo Manifesto likha hai, usey karna bhi padega”! 🙂

AAP Delhi Manifesto 2015: Water as a Right

This is the fourth post in a series on “AAP Delhi Manifesto 2015”


Aam Aadmi Party’s White Paper on Water

The NCT Delhi is a territorially small and largely urbanized city-state with a large and growing concentration of population. Despite being a small territory, it has great significance since it’s not just any metropolitan city but also the national capital. However, Delhi is largely dependent for its water supply on external resources, over which it exercises little or no control. The city gets it water from the Ganga basin, Yamuna sub-basin, Indus basin and its internal aquifers. These sources are fast getting depleted due to ever accelerating demand. 1.8 crore people of Delhi deserve an efficient and regular with effective sewage treatment.

The population of Delhi increased from 138 lakh in 2001 to 167 lakh in 2011, which is expected to rise to 230 lakh in 2021. Out of 33.41 lakh households in Delhi, only about 20 lakh have piped water supply system. Thus, over 50 lakh people do not get piped water in their homes and are dependent on other sources like tankers, borewells, Yamuna, canals and ponds.

The depleting ground water level in Delhi has become a matter of serous concern. At some places in South and South West Delhi, the water table has gone down to 30-70 meters below the ground level. The quality of underground reserves is deteriorating and at many places has been found to be unfit for human consumption. While the salinity of ground water is increasing in Southwest and North-West Delhi, fluoride and chemical concentrations are higher than prescribed limits at various locations.

Delhi has a serious water scarcity, much of which is due to the mismanagement and inequitable distribution of water. The CAG estimates that the DJB is losing more than Rs. 1000 crore every year due to mismanagement and corruption. 45% households are not connected to water sewerage network and thus, 350 million gallons of wastewater that could otherwise be used after recycling is lost everyday. About Rs 32000 crore has been spent in water and sewerage sector by the Delhi government over the last 10 years yet there has not been much improvement in the city’s water services. The situation is dire and Delhi needs a complete transformation of its water situation

AAP wants to give the citizens of Delhi the right to water. We believe that water like air is one of the most basic requirements for every human being. AAP also believe that the right to food should include the right to water. To provide safe drinking water to people is the first and foremost duty of an elected government. To deal with the acute water crisis prevailing in Delhi AAP has outlined an actionable blueprint of providing clean and regular supply of water to all Delhi Citizens:

  1. AAP will provide Water as a Right.
    1. It will provide universal access to clean drinking water to all its citizens of Delhi at an affordable price.
    2. The DJB Act will be amended to make clean drinking water a right of people.
  2. Free Lifeline Water: AAP will ensure free lifeline water of upto 20 kiloliter to every household with DJB’s metered water connection.
  3. AAP will make a time bound plan of action for covering all residents of Delhi with piped water and sewage network in all parts irrespective of their legal status. There will be no discrimination between planned/non-planned; authorized/ non-authorized; regularized/ non-regularized; city or village.
  4. Equitable and adequate water supply in all parts of the NCT of Delhi by laying of new pipe lines, construction of UGRs, Booster Pumping Stations and Water treatment Plants.
  5. Tough steps will be taken up to eliminate water mafia, and regulate private tankers effectively to ensure low cost to the consumer.
  6. AAP will ensure the strong implementation of the High Court order to ensure that Delhi gets extra raw water from Haryana in the Munak canal, an issue on which the BJP government in Haryana and the Center have been dithering. We will also operationalize water treatment plants in Dwarka, Bawana and Okhla. In order to widen DJB water network, residents in water scarce areas will be connected with the Delhi Jal Board pipeline.
  7. All residential societies who at present are not provided with Delhi Jal Board Water connection and as a result are deprived of DJB’s piped water supply will be covered with the water pipe lines. All existing regulatory and policy frameworks on water will be streamlined on the formation of AAP government.
  8. Setting up a network of Piaos (water kiosks); public hydrants to ensure availability of safe drinking water free-of-charge in Jhonpri/Jhuggi (JJ) colonies as well as other underdeveloped areas of the city facing scarcity of water.
  9. Realistic water demand projection will be prepared and losses through leakages will be steadily reduced. Initiate water accounting and auditing.
  10. In order to reduce demand for potable water and to promote its conservation, AAP will implement a dual water distribution system to reclaim community’s waste water to reuse after recycle for non-domestic purposes. This program will be taken up in the planned colonies; group housing societies and also in big residential apartments, as well as in malls and commercial complexes.
  11. Decentralized sophisticated water purification network shall be set up to provide good quality premium water supply with the participation of RWAs/NGOs.
  12. To conserve and augment the ground water reserves, Rainwater harvesting and harnessing will be made compulsory. Such families shall be called water friendly families. Govt. shall provide certain incentives to such families in their water bill.
  1. Reviving the Yamuna: more STPs will be constructed and sewerage network will be laid in all the parts of Delhi. Monitoring of flow, discharge and quality will be started. Cutting-edge technologies will be adopted and more laboratories will be set up at sector/zonal level for 24-hour surveillance hours to monitor the quality of reclaimed water. Penetration of non-treated water into the river Yamuna will be strictly restricted.

AAP’s Detailed Blueprint on Water

Free lifeline water

Each household having a metered connection will get average 700 liters of free water every day. This amounts to 20 kiloliters per month per household. This is considered to be lifeline water, which is needed for basic dignified existence.

This scheme will bring many benefits to the DJB (Delhi Jal Board) consumers.

  1. It promotes conservation of water by those households who would consciously cut their consumption to reduce their water bills.
  2. It will facilitate provisioning of piped water to those areas that are currently water stressed or have no piped water supply network since the Delhi government will be under moral obligation to provide equal benefits of this scheme to every citizen of Delhi.
  3. This scheme will also encourage water metering.
  4. Provision of lifeline water scheme shall be extended to group housing societies by making bulk allotments based on number of houses, which will incentivize societies to self-regulate their consumption.
  5. The supply and distribution of water will be made available to all citizenry on a fair; adequate and an equitable manner and no one shall be discriminated against in this regard.

Universal access to water

  1. AAP will provide water to all residents in uniform, adequate and an equitable manner.
  2. AAP will ensure that each home, colony and living establishment gets a water connection to sustain basic life and economic activities.
  3. A comprehensive and time bound water and sewage pipe laying network plan will be introduced to provide potable water to all house hold in Delhi irrespective of any discrimination of locality basis.
  4. Entire Delhi resident will be connected with the Delhi Jal Board Water Pipe network those do not currently have a piped water connection. This will be done in 5 years.
  5. AAP make a special commitment to all unauthorized colonies, group housing societies and water-starved constituencies. DJB water will be made available to them. This will be done by:
    1. Getting water from Haryana through the Munak canal
    2. Reviving non-functional water plants like Dwarka, Bawana, and Okhla
    3. Building dedicated decentralized Water Treatment Plants for poor ground water quality zones having water deficit or no treated water supply.
    4. Water connections in groups for JJ localities.

Pricing policy of AAP for drinking water

Water is not a commodity or an economic good. No human being can survive without water. AAP has an important concern in the context of the right to water being part of the fundamental the right to life. Henceforth the pricing policy of AAP shall remain public friendly. AAP will provide universal access to potable water to all its citizens of Delhi at a sustainable and affordable price.

  1. Make tariff hike changes on need-base and abolish the mandatory annual 10% hike in water tariffs.
  2. AAP government will abolish the C-1A category to provide relief to the households, which are running small shops at their residence (less than 100 square feet) for their livelihood and not using water for commercial purposes, for which they are charged commercial rates.

Commitment to water quality

Safe drinking water is a sine qua non of a healthy society. AAP will have a special focus and holistic approach to guarantee a safe and accessible water supply with quality standards as per BIS: 10500 certification. Following steps will be taken:

  1. Setting up water sample collection points at Zonal level for random checking of water quality.
  2. Zonal laboratory in each of the 9 zones in Delhi to test the chemical condition of water, sediments, organic and inorganic contaminants.
  3. Water Quality Monitoring shall be conducted on a 24X7 basis.

Water Accounting and Auditing

A comprehensive water supply accounting and auditing is essential to ascertain the exact demand and supply of water. At present Delhi Jal Board has no credible data. AAP will launch a comprehensive program for installation of bulk and domestic water meters. State of the art techniques and technologies shall be used to monitor the pressure in water pipe line, the water flow and supply. This will help in measuring accurate projection of water demand and collection of water supply data.

Clampdown on Water Mafia

  1. AAP is committed to clamping down on Delhi’s powerful tanker mafia, and prosecuting the political leaders who protect and control the water mafia.
  2. AAP will put in place a transparent Tanker water distribution system by implementation of state of the art techniques and technologies i.e. GPS/GPRS; data acquisition and flow monitoring and data base system. The schedule of tankers operating in different localities would be made available online.
  3. Private tankers will be regulated to ensure consumer protection against exorbitant prices.
  4. AAP opposes the privatization of the DJB, and reaffirms its commitment to provide clean water in every home in Delhi at an affordable price. A performance audit of private contracts will be done and those that are not functioning well or not maintained properly or proved expensive will be terminated.

Plug Leakages and Stop Theft

  1. More bulk meters at important points in the network to measure the flow of water and check for leakages or theft of water.
  2. Strengthen leak detection cell with new technology to save water and to maintain quality.
  3. Urgent repair to broken pipelines to prevent leakages.

Commitment to Rainwater harvesting to Recharge Ground Water & Water Bodies

Tremendous growth in population, mismanagement in water distribution system and high level of urbanization in Delhi has resulted in over-exploitation of ground water resources. Ground water levels are declining at an alarming rate and the water table is precariously low. To recharge Delhi’s groundwater resources, we will:

  1. AAP will take steps to regulate the tube-wells and borewells installed and operating in the city.
  2. We will utilize Delhi’s abundant borewells/tube wells for rainwater recharge by rainwater harvesting policies.
  3. We will prioritize the development of local and decentralized water resources exploring the ideas of rainwater harvesting, recharge wells, borehole flooding, watershed development, soil-water conservation programs and other small projects.
  4. We will revive Delhi’s water bodies like lakes, ponds, baolis, etc. by rainwater recharging and maintaining them in partnership with mohalla sabhas.
  5. Rainwater harvesting (RWH) has been made compulsory in Tamil Nadu. Learning lessons from Tamil Nadu, the AAP government will throw its weight behind RWH and strongly push in a top-down manner. Incentives will be provided for the same. The Delhi Jal Board will also be made a partner and stakeholder in this project and it will be the nodal agency to disseminate information about the various types of soils and knowhow about RWH.
  6. All societies; apartments and building irrespective of public or private; government schools, commercial and office buildings and hotels will have RWH systems.
  7. Collection of rainwater and surface runoff through check dams at the banks of Yamuna and wherever else possible.
  8. Sewage has to be seen as great resource and urban society as the greatest generator of wastewater. AAP will encourage public to use treated and recycled water in other than non-domestic purposes. This approach will help to down the water supply demand in order to decrease their fresh water consuming entity and to reduce abstraction of more ground water.
  9. Prevent misuse of borewells. There is an urgent need for legislation regulating the use of groundwater in Delhi.

Yamuna Revival

The Yamuna River is a part of the culture of Delhi. It is our responsibility to revive this dying river. Just like England revived the Thames by imposing strict rules, we too can rejuvenate Yamuna if we have the political will:

  1. There will be a close and strict monitoring of all industries that discharge water into the river. Most of the pollution happens at night, while the current monitoring happens during the day only. All effluents into the river shall be monitored 24*7.
  2. No untreated water, whether industrial or domestic sewage will enter Yamuna.
  3. More sewage treatment plants will be constructed and emphasis will be laid on secondary treatment after which the water can be used for horticulture, car wash, toilet flushing and other purposes. This water can generate more revenue for DJB.
  4. Steps will be taken to promote flood-plain conservation.
  5. All construction on the Yamuna should be banned: both government and private.
  6. Finish the construction of Yamuna dam. The new government has given the dam environmental clearance.
  7. No encroachments/construction in flood plains will be allowed.
  8. River cleaning and desiltation work will be done on regular basis.

Swaraj in Water

  1. Promotion of Jal Swaraj or governance and management of water by Citizens (Concept of Public-Public Partnership)
  2. Citizens Water Council for Water Governance (Jal Swaraj Samiti) in Delhi at Mohalla level within RWAs or in Schools/colleges so student learn about water management and savings by managing their waters themselves at School for drinking or sanitation purposes.
  3. Share of profit with RWA in special projects and money earn by RWA can be utilized for environmental upliftment in their respective society or Mohalla.

AAP Delhi Manifesto 2015: Big Change without Big Spending- Part-2

This is the third post in a series on “AAP Delhi Manifesto 2015”

Yes! We have won the election! And I will write about the victory and the final few days soon 🙂 But in the meantime, let’s continue talking about my labour of love, the AAP Delhi Manifesto, which will soon be operationalised! In our last post on the theme, we talked about the underlying theme of “Big Change Without Big Spending” and proposed our innovative ideas on affordable housing and office space for professionals. In this post, I’d like to propose a few ideas that we couldn’t make concrete to put in our manifesto, since even our expert groups were discussing and divided over these issues. We would love to hear your views!

Increasing Seat Capacity for Schools 

Delhi currently spends only 1.6% of its GSDP and 15% of its state budget on education, which shows its misaligned priorities. From 2003-2011, only 211 new government schools were opened with virtually no increase in secondary or senior secondary schools. This has caused a huge dropout rate after middle school.

Thus, there is a severe shortage of schools in Delhi. While we will construct 500 schools in the long run, we will look at innovative ways to increase seat capacity in the short run. We will:

  1. Consider common usage of playgrounds amongst different schools and school buildings. Schools currently need to have their own park or playground, which prevents low-cost private schools and a few government schools from being operationalized as per law. If usage of parts can be optimized or shared, it will be a game-changing opportunity to increase number of seats in schools.
  2. Increase the number of storeys/floors on many MCD/DoE schools, which are currently single-storeyed, and thus have a self-imposed cap on the number of children they can admit. Verticalization of schools may be a necessity of the future.
  3. Adoption of schools by non-profits, which can provide model administration and teaching methods and act as a mentor for government schools nearby.

Centralized Drug Procurement

While the vision of the Aam Aadmi Party is one of decentralized participatory government with honest and accountable governance, we realize that there’s an upside of centralization in some ways. Drug and equipment procurement in the healthcare sector is one of the most corrupt components of Delhi’s public health setup. And this is because of the number of intermediaries and middlemen who take their “commission” and make sub-optimal choices for public good.

We have found the centralized, transparent and online drug and equipment procurement would corruption in Delhi by at least 200 crores, a sum that can be reinvested into the healthcare sector to strengthen our primary health centers.

2 Lakh Toilets with Innovative Revenue Sharing and Biodigester Toilets

AAP will build 2 lakh toilets across Delhi: about 1.5 lakh toilets in slums and JJ clusters while 50,000 toilets will be built in public spaces.

WHO says that there should be one toilet seat for every 50 people. However, we propose to give 4 times better standing than this WHO minimal standard, which is about one toilet seat per 12.5 people. Providing women toilets in Delhi’s public places will come as a big relief. People living in slums, unauthorized colonies and JJ clusters don’t have any toilets. Overall, thirty percent of the people of Delhi, i.e. about 50 lakh people and roughly 25 lakh girls and women, do not have access to a toilet. AAP is committed to providing a toilet for all, especially for women and people living in slums.

We are exploring different options for revenue generation and technologies for different areas of Delhi. For example, we could have a public-private partnerships like Sulabh toilets in the NDMC area where advertisers build and operate toilets and gives a proportion of the revenue to the Delhi government. Similarly, on the technology front, bio-digesters will be used in JJ clusters and slums where there are no sewer lines and solid waste disposal is difficult. We will explore different permutations and incentive structures to stimulate toilet building.

At a cost of about 55,000 Rupees per toilet seat, this means an investment of 1100 crores in 5 years, which is about 220 crores per year. For context, Delhi’s budget is about 37,000 crores. Talks with NDMC and MCD revealed that we should be able to cover the expenditure of about half the toilets through revenue sources of advertising and PPP. So, we are looking at an actual budget of 110 crores a year for five years. We already allot 35 crores per year in the budget to build toilets and each municipal corporation has a lot of money from before to build toilets.

Thus, AAP has a feasible, concrete and sustainable plan for overhauling and revamping Delhi’s sanitation crisis.

Premium Quality Water Treatment Plant

AAP wants to give the citizens of Delhi the right to water. We believe that water like air is one of the most basic requirements for every human being. AAP also believe that the right to food should include the right to water. To provide safe drinking water to people is the first and foremost duty of an elected government. However, AAP will also take provision of water to the next level and begin the provision of premium quality drinking water supply. The quality of water will be better than bottled mineral water, and water supply network and quality standards will meet or exceed US EPA and WHO standards. The proposal will be benefited as under:

  1. Save water (roughly saving minimum 5 Cr liters per day*)
  2. Electricity (roughly 250 W per family per day total saving roughly 250 MW/day**) This is considering the fact that number of domestic RO units in Delhi 1 million and water wastage per RO is 50 liters per day and electric consumption 250W/day/RO
  3. Reduces chronic water born diseases^ that will further reduce the health budget. Contaminated water is responsible for around 70% diseases known to human being. Contaminated water may cause cancer, cardiac disorders, flurosis, loss of memory, hepatitis etc.
  4. Sharing of profit with respective RWA and that earning can be used for environmental development like Water harvesting, park development or tree plantation, improvement in water supply and sanitation system of society or on Solar based systems by respective RWA.
  5. Beneficiary to citizens and will save minimum Rs. 250 to 900^^ per month to a family using RO system or buying bottled water for their drinking needs.
Line Item Savings (in Rs.)
Savings in Electrical Bills Rs. 50-200
Savings in Water Bills Rs. 5-20
RO Maintenance per year Rs. 100-Rs. 250 per month (1000-2500 per year)
Water bottles Rs. 500-900 per month

Financial Viability: Yes, Plant having capacity 100,000 liters feeding roughly 750 families can be installed in 2 Cr to 2.5 Cr.

Revenue Generation per plant per year: Rs 24 Lakh minimum

Share of RWA per year @25%: Rs. 6 lakhs#

Technical Viability: Yes

Operation and Maintenance cost: Roughly Rs. 10,000 or less for the society having 750-1000 house holds

More posts on the manifesto will flow 🙂 We’re listening! Keep sharing your views! 🙂

Is AAP the Uber of Politics?

Now that I’ve caught your attention with that scandalous headline, you might as well have a read at the premise I have to offer.

The last month and half, people have rightly skewered Uber for letting down its customers regarding strict background checks and systems that would have prevented the assault and rape of one of its customers. While the criticism was needed and necessary, I’m sure most of those who have taken an Uber or Ola cab would agree that they were better off with such a service than they currently are without it. Even with system failures, online cab services offer a radically better alternative than the existing infrastructure of taxis, autos and buses in Delhi. It looks like they will come back with better checks and systems in place; and make life easier once again.

A further question must also be asked. What are the expectations we have of Uber vs a private taxi service operator or bus contractor? They are higher, and rightly so. The use of technology, the international brand they carry and the transparency and safety they advertise stand for something that their competitors don’t. Our expectations are higher and they rightly should be. But we should not throw out the baby with the bath water: these services are way better than the existing alternatives; both in price, availability, efficiency and yes, safety.

AAP is the Uber of politics. We are currently offered an alternative that is radically better in terms of how it is funded, how it functions and the interests it thus works for. It has had over the last year serious governance issues as well, including issues with diligence checks on donors. And I am afraid that once again we are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

The arguments against the political naiveté and novice of AAP are well-known. Political immaturity, agitation experts, lack of organization and a single point agenda. These were, and are valid criticisms but it is also important to recognize the work done by the party in fixing each one of its flaws.

The dharnas, as you may have noticed simply by their absence, have stopped. The agitations have become more sophisticated; and the party has followed up all major issues it has taken up in the courts; with Prashant Bhushan spearheading several public interest litigations. These have been seen through, whether it was allegations regarding CBI’s Ranjit Sinha, or the coal license allocation scam. Several other cases continue to be fought in courts, and our 4 MPs are vocal in parliament, and ALWAYS present at every session. This is not shoot and scoot. This is not drama/dharna politics.

The lack of organization has been fixed as well. The party is transparent enough to put the details of this on its website; but should you not have the time to peruse this; the proof is also in the pudding. There is a large-scale, grassroots level election campaign running in Delhi today. The party’s message, delivery and advertising is consistent and omnipresent. Decide then for yourself whether this is possible without a well-functioning, united political organization.

The single point agenda has turned into a multifaceted blueprint for the city of Delhi; which has culminated in the Delhi Manifesto. More than that, it has done this with consultation with several stakeholders from across the spectrum of experience; myself included. What is even more important than this in my opinion is the willingness of the party to include and adopt good ideas; and then popularise them; even “non-sexy” ones that otherwise would not find easy mention. For example, ensuring street lights are always lit; or auditing electricity distribution company’s accounts. This is in sharp contrast to the BJP and Congress, who give big slogans with zero details. Chalo Modi ke saath, par kahaan chalein yeh toh kabhi nahin batayenge. Vikaas ki aur, par vikaas hota kya hai, kaisa hoga,yeh nahin batayenge. The devil is always in the details. I urge you to spend a little time to read our manifesto before you dismiss our party as not having an agenda or idea as to how to govern.

The problems continue to be worked on. But the criticism of the party was that it did not live up to our high expectations. Let that not so easily turn into a common refrain I hear-that they are just like the rest of them.  Say that often enough, refuse to engage with the platform AAP are providing you, and it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. AAP will turn into one of “them”.

Individuals will not make or break our system. Neither a Narendra Modi or Arvind Kejriwal can make a better Delhi. Systems and organisations can. Invest in a clean system, that takes feedback and self-selects volunteers and workers who are interested in public welfare, not personal enrichment. Drop the cynicism and invest your energy, time or at the very least your single vote in a start-up that may change the rules of the game. Its only 2 years old. Its going to have problems. And it may yet fail completely, overtaken by incompetence and hubris. But if you don’t at least invest right now, its doomed to fail for sure.

Then indeed we will be left with politics as usual. Funded by those richer and more powerful than you to take care of their own interests, which more often than not will not align with yours. Politics enforced by those with muscle power whose interests are definitely not aligned with yours.

I’d like to hope that an alternative is possible. I’m prepared to have egg on my face should it not. I think you should be too, because the rewards vastly outweigh the embarrassment of being wrong.

Vote for AAP. Volunteer with AAP. Engage with AAP.