New Delhi: Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who led the Congress party to victory for the third straight time in state elections, wants to accelerate delayed preparatory work for the Commonwealth Games being held in 2010. In an interview, Dikshit spells out her government’s agenda. Edited excerpts:
What’s your agenda for the next six months?
We came into power on the plank of continuity of work. And our biggest challenge as of now is the successful conduct of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. We are only a part of it, (but) we are the host city... priority number one is to see that all that is prepared and done in time.
Has the economic slowdown affected the preparations?
We did a review today (30 December). But we cannot have (the economic downturn) as an excuse for an unfinished task. So we are trying to support wherever we can. We have a time-bound commitment to complete the task (for the Games). We won’t allow funds to come down.
Clear view: Dikshit says the biggest challenge now is the successful conduct of the Commonwealth Games. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Are you happy with the progress of work?
In some cases, yes and in some cases, no. We are behind schedule except in the case of the Tyagaraj Stadium, which is two months ahead of schedule. We are walking a tightrope...but I think we will be able to meet the task.
One project for which you have been criticized for was BRT corridor project...
Who criticized it? The media! We have won all the seats around that area (of the BRT project—Ambedkar Nagar to Delhi Gate). We know there are some problems that need to be addressed. We need to make it smoother and people need to be educated about how to use it. Delhi is facing major traffic jams. They are not because of the BRT corridor. You have traffic jams primarily because you are yet to learn disciplined driving. Also because we are a growing city (and the number of) cars keep going up... We have put it (the BRT plan) on hold. We are going to redesign wherever it needs.
Any plans to replicate the BRT system in other road stretches?
We have already identified five more corridors. But we’ll start it only after we have perfected the existing one. We will do it (replicate it in other stretches). The BRT in east Delhi is going to be different from what we have built here. We have to design it according to the requirements of that particular city within the city.
With the Capital’s pollution levels rising, are you looking at introducing a congestion tax to contain Delhi’s traffic growth? How do you plan to deal with this?
I do not think we are prepared for congestion tax yet... I could offer alternatives (to reduce the congestion). That is why I have introduced air-conditioned and low-floor buses. The Metro (Railway) is going at a very fast pace. (All these are) to dissuade (people) from buying cars but how can I stop them?
Non-availability of drinking water continues to be an issue. Do you have any new projects to resolve it?
We cannot have a new project. The Sonia Vihar plant (water distribution project) is working at almost its full capacity. We should distribute it equally. We need to conserve water. We find pipes leaking very often. We have been working on it for the past three years. The leakage is still at 45% and it has to be brought down. I am going to have a very strong campaign on that. But I do not think I can introduce fines for wastage (of water). What I find with fines is that corruption comes along.
There are two plants in Bawana and Nangloi in west Delhi, but they are not operational because Haryana is not giving us water. Once Haryana completes the canal to carry the 80 million gallons of water assured by the Bhakra Beas Management Board we will have enough water for west Delhi and even for outer Delhi.
I am meeting Haryana chief minister (Bhupinder Hooda) next week. We paid for the land and the construction of the canal. But they keep dragging it.
Any plan to increase water charges?
Any plans for a subsidized housing programme for those who are economically backward?
Yes. We have made about 12,000-13,000 houses for the economically weaker sections under Rajiv Ratna Awas Yojana. We got about a lakh (of) applications for it. We have to build 400,000 houses in five years. Then there is also a programme by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to build four-storeyed houses that will have two-room and one-room tenements with attached toilets for economically backward sections.
Are there any land titling plans for Delhi?
The multiplicity of authority here is wretched. The land in Delhi belongs to the DDA, and the clearance of plans is done by the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Corporation) in Lutyens’ Delhi and the Delhi government collects the stamp duty for registrations. Somewhere along, coordination, openness and transparency are lost. I am trying hard to convince to bring the land under us. Every time I want to build a school or a hospital or a hotel, I run to the DDA. You want to build a hotel, you run to the DDA and auction it. It costs you crores and crores of rupees to get that land. Everything gets delayed...
There were some reports that you could be chosen for a senior post at the Centre...
These are just projections