New Delhi: The euphoria of retaining power for the third consecutive term faded away during the course of the year for the Congress government in Delhi as it had to grapple with challenges like completing projects linked to the Commonwealth Games and dealing with dwindling revenue forcing it to hike bus fare and water tariff.
Chief minister Sheila Dikshit faced severe criticism for capital’s tardy preparation for the mega sporting event next year and it became a single-point agenda for the government from September onwards to focus mainly on speeding up work on infrastructure projects worth over Rs15,000 crore.
“My single point agenda now is to ensure successful hosting of the Commonwealth Games,” Dikshit said.
Skyrocketing prices of vegetables and other essential commodities also kept the government on its toes as it opened over 100 special outlets across the city to sell pulses and wheat flour at subsidised rates to help the poor but failed to rein in the shooting prices in the retail market.
The government also felt the blues of the global financial crisis as the tax collection declined by Rs400 crore in the first quarter of the current fiscal, prompting it to take up several measures to shore up its revenue generation.
In view of the dip in tax collection, the government decided to withdraw the annual power subsidy of Rs200 crore to certain categories of the consumers besides substantially increasing the bus fare and, water tariff which will come into effect from 1 January.
The little silver lining for the government was that the opposition BJP was in disarray and failed to create public pressure on the government against these decisions.
Facing financial crunch for several projects related to the Commonwealth Games, the Delhi government had requested the Centre to allocate more fund and Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee enhanced the allocation from Rs2,112 crore in the interim budget to Rs3,472 crore in the main budget.
The Delhi government, in its ‘thanks giving´ budget had earmarked Rs2,105 crore for the financial year 2009-10 for projects related to the Games. The government did not levy any new tax in its budget as it wanted to thank the people of Delhi for electing the government for third time in a row.
Another area of concern was the increasing cases of swine flu. The government took a series of measures including enhancing the health infrastructure to offer proper treatment to the patients.
In view of the ‘green vision´ of the Commonwealth Games, the government has also taken a series of measures including carrying out large scale afforestation, developing city forests to ensure that the environmental impact of the event is minimised.
The government, in a significant decision, in January had banned use of plastic bags in shopping malls, retail markets, hospitals and hotels and decided to impose a maximum penalty of Rs1 lakh or five years’ imprisonment or both against the violators.
The government also initiated massive efforts to beautify areas near the venues of the CW Games and streetscapping of all major roads besides modernising the transport network in the city.
As part of modernisation of the transport system, the government had inducted over 900 low floor buses into the DTC fleet and ordered another 3,000 such vehicles so as to totally phase out the ‘killer´ Blueline buses which claimed around 120 lives in 2009 so far.
However, government faced severe criticism after six low floor buses caught fire raising questions on passenger safety prompting the transport department to slap a fine of Rs4 crore on supplier Tata Motors and order a bumper to bumper checking of all the vehicles of the new fleet.
In the month of July and August, massive power cuts coupled with water scarcity generated huge public outcry against the government which promptly warned the discoms to improve its distribution network and procure power even at higher rates to meet the increased demand.
Dissatisfied by the performance of the power discom BSES, the government had even warned the company of stringent punishment if it failed to improve the situation. Delhi’s power regulator DERC had even imposed a fine of Rs1.68 crore on discom BSES for overdrawing heavily from the Northern Grid during summer.
In yet another significant development in the year, the government after a long delay, framed its own excise law which provides for a regime of more stringent punishment for all liquor-related offences, including enhanced fine for consuming alcohol at public places.
Till now, the excise related offences were considered under the Punjab Excise Act 1914, provision of which was extended to Delhi in 1939.
Chief minister Dikshit also came under attack for recommending parole to Manu Sharma, serving life imprisonment in the Jessica Lall murder case after it emerged that he violated parole norms. However, Dikshit defended the move saying it was within the ‘legal purview’.
The ruling Congress in September received a jolt when it lost two assembly seats earlier held by it, as BJP wrested one while the RJD opened its account in the city.
In November again, the capital joined an elite group of cities like New York, London and Paris when the government unveiled a unique portal comprising all the over ground and underground utilities like hospitals, schools, telephone lines and water pipes in three dimensional digital format.