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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Can AAP Live Up To Its Promises ?


Within minutes of Arvind Kejriwal taking oath as the chief minister of Delhi NCR, questions on his ability to deliver his promises have started coming up. Undoubtedly his speech would undergo a lot of scrutiny, dissections and continue to remain in national discourse, even if he has categorically ruled out another pan-India "misadventure".  Why then are so many people not from Delhi so interested in Delhi affairs while political upheaval in  "proper" and far more bigger states of Bihar and government formation issue Jammu and Kashmir are almost sidelined in mainstream and social media? The obvious answer is AAP and Arvind Kejriwal have brought in something to Indian democracy that defies the traditional political narrative and threatens it despite the Delhi CM's statement on not going national.

 A narrative is being built that AAP's victory is largely based on freebies it has offered. This is untrue and insult to mandate people of Delhi. What AAP has offered and vowed, is to bring systemic changes and to do away with practices that are unnecessary, corrupt and benefit crony capitalists rather than people. Since every party that has been in power has doled out freebies starting from cycles, TV, laptops and free electricity to sections of population for electoral dividend, it is but expected a lot of people would see AAP's promises as cheap populism. But is it ?



Most of these people, some with genuine concern, believe large scale development, revenue generation is the way to bring about inclusive growth. It is true, industrial development is necessary for economic growth in the longer term but that doesn't mean immediate measures cannot be taken to bring relief to the poor. Most of us seem to have forgotten that more than large scale industrialization, it is the "jugaad"  that has been one of the key factors of the economic growth of last two decades. The thing about jugaad is, it can work both ways. Arvind made some interesting points in his speech, eradicating corruption and the state coffer having enough money to slash prices of water and electricity. And these being interrelated.  In one of my previous posts I had mentioned about the eighteen-fold rise of water tariff issue in a decade in Delhi as had been revealed by the Aam Aadmi Party.  The Delhi Jal Board maintained that 50% of water in Delhi was Non-Revenue Water and more than 200 million gallons of water were lost in leakage every day. Yet where does all this water go ? The Universe wastes nothing!

Neither does the Universe transfer the water into illegal tankers that charge outrageous amounts for a basic necessity such as water, the case of tanker mafia is well reported but no action was ever taken against them by any government except the 49-days AAP governed Delhi. Something similar applies to the electricity tariff, it has long assumed that private DISCOMS fudge balance sheet to show losses when in reality their profit has been substantial. The director of DERC, Brijendra Singh had in  2010 communicated that given the amount of profit discoms were making electricity tariff should be slashed by 23% but after his retirement the tariff was actually increased by 20% and ten 30%.  This alone slashes the tariff by 50% but then truth is, it isn't that simple. companies involved in power generation, transmission and distribution, have all been inflating figures in their balance sheets. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence has found that overvaluation by companies importing coal for power transmission amounts to Rs 29,000 crores for the period between 2011-2014. This inflated cost has been directly passed to the consumers. Yet people complain about subsidising water and electricity, which is not something new, what is new is that while offering 20 KL of water free to every household  also implies that in order to avail them, they get metered connection and a significant reduction in Non-Revenue Water quantity.



However, more needs to be be done to develop infrastructure, revive water plants, build power station for Delhi, the details can be found in the AAP's 70 Point Action Plan document here. Of course, these would take time and obstacles, both incidental and politically motivated ones. Case in point is the water scarcity created in parts of Delhi immediately after the AAP government was sworn in the last time. The mandate of 2015 has largely prevented agencies and parties from carrying out similar sabotages. AAP has already begun fulfilling promises at a pace that I find difficult to keep up with in order to mention them here, nor was it my original intention. I don't live in Delhi, for me it is not about the results as much as it is about the process and the intention to deliver which I believe people of Delhi too look at. After all, in the electoral campaign and even before that Arvind Kejriwal was attacked for his 49-days stint, especially his resignation. Arvind on the other hand asked for trust based on the efforts they made in those 49 days and later as volunteers and in his speech made it clear that they will work with honest intention and remain grounded amongst the people of Delhi. Given the strong connect AAP leaders and volunteers have with the common people, it would require mammoth effort to derail it.  As for analysts,commentators, experts they might well take a break as far as this question is concerned.



Aam Aadmi Party effect: Free water tankers, clean roads
Updated: 2/17/2015

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