Musings from Chicago: AAP in Power: 100* Not Out

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Chicago – They say that “With great power comes great responsibility.” But in a democracy, “With great mandate, comes a great responsibility.” The unprecedented mandate given to the Aam Aadmi Party in the recent Delhi elections meant that expectations of Delhi’s citizens from the “new kid on the block” were sky high. Now with the Delhi Government’s 100 day anniversary overlapping with one year anniversary of the Modi Government at the centre, many political pundits have taken out their yellow legal pads and drawn a point by point comparison of the performance showed by the respective Governments.

It is amusing to note that even decades old political parties fail to get the kind of scrutiny offered to AAP ever since its inception. The AAP government in Delhi remains the most reported state Government in the country. While others may get bogged down by such intense scrutiny, AAP has happily taken it in its stride and involved the Aam Aadmi at every possible step of decision making. AAP’s 100 days journey has seen many hits and a few misses. A flashback of some of the major decisions taken by the Delhi Government in the past 100 days might just remind us why the people of Delhi chose AAP over others.

1031 Rings All Day Long

Political parties in India have a simple rule. Come to power, enjoy for 4 years, fulfill a couple of promises from the manifesto in the fifth year, make a new manifesto with same points for the next election! So when AAP got down to work from the very first day, it raised many eyebrows. AAP wasted little time in re-introducing the corruption helpline 1031 and get the ball rolling on its most critical election promise – eradication of corruption. The helpline got 12,731 calls in the first 24 hours of its operation. By the time the helpline had completed one month in operation in the first week of May, it had received over 1.25 lakh calls, resulting in 25 arrests, including that of a Delhi Police constable.

As of writing this piece, more than 35 officials have been arrested and 152 suspended. The investigations into the complaints are handled by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which comes under the direct purview of the Delhi Government – thus enabling speedy resolutions. The willingness of the Government to stay true to its corruption free image is evident.

The vibes of a corruption-free Delhi aren’t confined to the public offices only. The Delhi secretariat has a new feel to it. A casual tour of the Secretariat would offer you a view of several bill-boards being put up by the Government, which not only talk about the Government’s zero tolerance towards corruption policy, but also name the officials who have been found to be involved in such malpractices.

Dipping Electricity & Water Bills

One of the most striking features of the 100-day tenure of AAP government has been a large dip in electricity and water bills. Thousands of people have come out in the open and accepted that their electricity bills have dropped by over 50% ever since AAP assumed power. At a time when discoms have expressed their desire to increase the electricity rates citing financial losses, the AAP Government has shown immense courage in taking the fight to the discoms, which are run by some of the most influential families in the country. Without any support from any other political party, AAP continues to stick its neck out and demand a CAG audit of the discoms to derive their actual running cost and to see if they are actually running into any loss at all. Within the first 100 days, the AAP is starting to make holes in the Nexus between the power discoms and the well-established political class, which exemplifies crony capitalism.

Bringing Delhi’s Government Schools Back to Life

Delhi’s municipal schools are in a despicable condition. Interestingly, this fact is no secret. But that didn’t push any of the previous Governments to look in the school system in Delhi and revamp it. After AAP came to power, Education Minister Manish Sisodia took it upon himself to see Delhi’s school system up close and personal. A number of surprise inspections were made and many teachers were found missing from their duty. Such unprecedented steps have increased the accountability on part of the teachers. A number of mid-day suppliers were also pulled up by the Minister for supplying low quality food to the kids. Such inspections have now become a routine in the capital.

Ensuring Capital’s Wellbeing

Satyendra Jain has been a busy man from Day 1 of the swearing of the government. Health minister in the AAP Government, Jain can be seen conducting visits to the hospitals very often. He has also given his phone number and e-mail address to all the doctors in Government hospitals and asked them to get in touch with him ‘at any time’ for any matter which is related to patient care.

In February, Delhi was hit by a major swine flu outbreak. The AAP Government put its best foot forward in perhaps its first big test after assuming power. The Government was quick to put Rs 4500 cap on the swine flu tests conducted at any private lab in the capital. In fact, a number of private labs were also served notices after they were found violating this directive. The Health Minister has committed to several reforms in the health care sector, notably increasing the bed capacity in hospitals, strengthening primary health care access and digitization of medical records.

No More Tobacco in Delhi

At a time when the central Government has spent months discussing the ideal size of pictorial warning on the packs of tobacco products, the AAP Government took little time to ban the sale and purchase of chewable tobacco in the capital. The Government also kicked off a number of awareness campaigns to educate people regarding the ill-effects of chewable tobacco.

While PM Modi is tagging celebrities on twitter to take forward the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, it is the AAP which seems to be doing him a favor by ensuring that Delhi gets rid of those red stained walls.

Many other notable achievements of AAP have gone unnoticed, including asking for people’s suggestion for the state’s budget, fulfillment of promises to the Auto Rickshaw drivers, digitization of government processes, asking for public’s suggestion on the city-wide Wi-Fi program and much more. If the past 100 days are any indication, AAP Government seems on track to fulfill much of its pre-poll promises and more, with some time to spare.

Dr. Munish Kumar Raizada
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Dr. Munish Kumar Raizada is a Chicago-based practicing physician (neonatologist) and a socio-political commentator

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