The transcript of BBC Hindi special programme Aapki Baat BBC Ke Saath with Chief Minister of Delhi
Nagendar Sharma : Mrs Sheila Dikshit, you hold the record of being the longest-serving chief minister of the Indian capital so far, do you think you have made substantial progress in making Delhi modern and secure for common people?
Sheila Dikshit : Well, we have made good progress in our modernisation drive. I am not saying we have achieved great success, but we have moved forward in the right direction at a reasonable speed, and our government has more than three years of its present tenure left, which is considerable time to do what we have promised. On law and order, I do not deny that incidents of crime take place in the national capital. It is mainly due to the migrant population, that such incidents take place. Delhi is always under media scrutiny, you have tens of TV news channels and a single incident is flashed across news channels throughout the day and on front pages of newspapers. The impact of the incident gets multiplied manifold. I am not using it as an excuse: yes problems are there, but these are magnified as well.
Listener from Delhi : Madam, there is acute shortage of water in the capital, and now your government is planning to privatise it. Would that help matters and the second major problem according to me is the traffic chaos. Do both these problems come anywhere in your priority list?
Sheila Dikshit : Let me make it absolutely clear that there would be no privatisation of water. Yes, we want to improve the water distribution system. We want the water supply to reach residents at reasonable rates. This does not at all mean that water rates would be hiked. I want to be very clear that there is no move to privatise water.
Nagendar Sharma : If there is no move to privatise water, then what is the status of the agreement between the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and the World Bank? Prominent environmentalists recently protested against this...
Sheila Dikshit : There is no agreement with the World Bank by which water would be privatised in Delhi. The Delhi government, in consultation with the Centre, had asked the World Bank to conduct a study on how to modernise water supply in the capital. New colonies are coming up at great speed; because of the burden of consistently increasing population -- and people need houses to stay. On the other hand, Delhi is an old city as well, leakages in water supply result in huge losses, leading to shortage. Also, we have seen that the distribution is erratic, in some areas per person supply is 500 litres, whereas in some others it is less than 32 litres per person. To remove such anomalies, we asked the World Bank to prepare a report. Where does it mean that we are going to privatise water in the capital?!
Listener from Delhi : But then how has this impression been created that water is going to be privatised?
Sheila Dikshit : Since the Right to Information Act has been implemented in Delhi, people have a right to access all the information. After accessing information, they reach their own conclusions and draw their own impressions. In a week or ten days' time, we have called meetings with all those concerned with this issue, including the NGOs. We are going to explain the entire issue, listen to their concerns, and inform them about the reality.
Listener from Lucknow : There is a regular slanging match between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh governments over water supposed to be given for Sonia Vihar plant. What is its present status?
Sheila Dikshit : First, the UP government told us that without a treatment plant at Sonia Vihar it would not be possible for them to release water. The treatment plant was ready in time, and now instead of releasing 300 cusecs of water, the UP government is indulging in politics. But people of Delhi would fight for their rights, and I am going to take the matter at every forum. I would directly speak to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadavji and also seek Centre’s help in the matter. We feel that once a commitment is made it should be honoured.
Listener from Bihar : I do not live in Delhi, but everyday read and see about the rapidly increasing rape cases in the capital. Why is your government not doing anything ?
Sheila Dikshit : Well, the capital is under constant media glare. Even a single incident is shown many times on TV screens and across front pages of newspapers, increasing its impact manifold. But I am not offering any excuses -- it is a fact that Delhi is perhaps the only state in the country which does not have control over law and order in its territory. We have made many suggestions to the Centre. We have suggested that patrolling of police women should be increased. On Delhi government's part, we have launched Operation Raksha, in which we have trained more than one lakh female volunteers for their own safety.
Nagendar Sharma : But Mrs Dikshit, you have been the chief minister for almost seven years now. When the NDA was in power at the Centre, you had said it was not transferring Delhi police to the state government for political reasons. But now you have a Congress-led government at the Centre for more than a year. What do you have to say now?
Sheila Dikshit : We are aware of our responsibilities, and I have myself led a delegation to the union Home Minister to apprise him of the demand that police should be under state government control. It is a part of the promise made in the Congress election manifesto, and the people of the state want the elected government to fulfil their aspirations. I think in the coming days, we would make concrete progress in this regard.
Nagendar Sharma : But none of six Congress MPs from the capital have even spoken once on the issue in Parliament.
Sheila Dikshit : Well, as I have said, this issue was mentioned in the Congress election manifesto during 2003 assembly elections. We are committed to ensure the safety of citizens of the capital. The voters of Delhi have reposed tremendous faith in our party during the last assembly elections and in Lok Sabha elections also, both of which were held within a gap of six months. You are right that I had led many delegations during the previous NDA government’s time to the Prime Minister and Home Minister demanding that police should be under the control of state government. I am continuing the efforts now also. I appeal for patience and we should soon see some positive results.
Listener from New York : The domestic waste in Delhi is less than other world cities, but we see heaps of garbage in our capital and nowhere else in the world. Why ?
Sheila Dikshit : My brother, I think you have not been to Delhi since many years. Heaps of garbage is a thing of the past now. I am not saying that I am satisfied with the level of cleanliness in Delhi, but a lot of efforts in cooperation with the residents have been made in recent years, and soon you would not have this complaint.
Listener from New York : But my complaint about chaotic traffic and frequent traffic jams remains...
Sheila Dikshit : We have come a long way in solving the traffic problems of the capital. From days of long halts at red lights and traffic jams, today you have a world class Metro operating in the city, which is going to be expanded to cover the entire city by 2009. Flyovers have reduced waiting time on the roads. We are working on further plans to ensure a smooth flow of traffic. Also you tell me which metropolis is there in the world where there are no traffic jams?
Listener from Delhi : Madam, you are absolutely right that the Metro is world-class. But why can’t we in Delhi introduce a congestion charge like some of the western cities, for those who want to travel in their private vehicles to the heart of the city, instead of using public transport?
Sheila Dikshit : We have been told about this, and we have read about it also, but at the moment we are not thinking about any sort of charge. We feel that more important than imposing any charge is developing traffic discipline. We are in constant consultations with the city’s police also, and their view also is that first of all priority should be given to one-way traffic on either sides of the roads. So first would come the traffic discipline, and then we would consider anything else.
Nagendar Sharma : Certain Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) in the capital have decided not to pay ten per cent enhanced electricity charges. What is your reaction?
Sheila Dikshit : We have come a long way in the capital to improve the power situation. There was a time when there were power-cuts for days. The situation has improved tremendously. So far as the tariff issue is concerned, there is a Regulatory Commission in the capital now. It is a quasi-judicial body. It listened to views of everybody, including the Resident Associations, now it is for the Regulatory Commission to take a decision on the issue.
Listener from Bhopal : Would Delhi be ready in time to host the 2010 Commonwealth games ?
Sheila Dikshit : Delhi in the past proved in 1982 that it can host any event. Things have changed a lot since then. We are aware of the challenges we are going to face in the run-up to hosting the games. We are strictly working to meet the deadlines, and no matter which government would be in power here at that time, Delhi would successfully host the games. Infrastructure and facilities would not be a problem.
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