Friday, June 2, 2023

Are AAP’s promises practical?


By Gaurav Sharma

New Delhi, Dec 23 (IANS) Slashed power bills, a daily supply of 700 litres of water to every household and regularising unauthorised colonies were arguably the three poll promises by the Aam Adami Party (AAP) that caught the people’s imagination and helped it reach a position from where it, somewhat unexpectedly, stands to form the government in Delhi.

Fulfilling these promises – which affect the average citizen of Delhi the most – is certainly not going to be a cakewalk for the year-old AAP. This litmus test will measure the gap between promise and performance.

“Inflated” power bills was one issue on which the upstart party immediately managed to strike a chord with the people and promised a 50 percent reduction in their monthly electricity bills, since power tariffs had gone up significantly in the last two years and were burning a hole in domestic budgets. .

Former Delhi principal secretary (power) Shakti Sinha finds the AAP sustainable “unsustainable.”

“It is Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission which determines tariffs. The Delhi government can only issue direction. The only way it can reduce power bills is by giving subsidy to the people,” Sinha told IANS.

He said that subsidising power bills across the board will cost a whopping Rs 5,000 crore to the Delhi government exchequer.

“Delhi has a development budget of Rs 15,000 crore and spending Rs 4,000-5,000 crore on power subsidy would be too much,” Sinha reasoned.

Anil Razdan, former secretary in the union power ministry, also wondered how AAP would keep its tall poll promises of 50 percent reduction in power bills for the average consumer. He said he would like to see the AAP government’s “concrete plan of action” on this issue and wondered if only “arm twisting” of power distribution companies can help AAP achieve its target.

In the run up to the just concluded Delhi polls, the AAP had gone hammer and tongs at the Congress-led Delhi government, accusing it of being in collusion with power distribution companies.

Water was another poll plank which the AAP tried to cash in on against the Congress. According to Census 2011, about a quarter of the city’s 17-18 million population does not get treated piped water.

The party has promised to provide 700 litres of water daily to every household in Delhi.

Himanshu Thakkar, an expert on water issues, finds it “feasible”.

“Delhi Jal Board claims to be supplying 200 litres of water (to every household). Raising it to 700 litres would need better infrastructure. Leakage would have to be stopped,” said Thakkar who is coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

Delhi needs around 1,100 million gallons of water a day. Officially, the supply is falling short by 50 million gallons but some say the shortage is much more.

Regularising unauthorised colonies, which allegedly mushroomed under the patronage of politicians, will be another daunting task for the AAP.

“It all depends on political will. It will be a challenge for them. There are so many authorities in Delhi to seek permission for approval,” town planner and housing expert Prem Singh told IANS. The inhabitants of these unauthorized colonies, which were once the stronghold of the Congress, turned the tables against the party which had promised to regularise over 1,600 of them – a plan which still hangs fire.

(Gaurva Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])

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