NEW DELHI :
Delhi’s deputy chief minister and senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, Manish Sisodia, who holds the finance and education portfolios, talks about the Assembly elections, which are less than four months away, as well as the work being done by the government and plans to improve the education sector. Edited excerpts of an interview:
The AAP government is going to complete five years in power in Delhi. What has been the experience so far?
The foundation of the system had many leakages and these five years have been very important to fix these leakages. Core elements were missing in the fields of education, health, water, and electricity. In Delhi, be it health or education, there was a gap. The best institutions such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences are in Delhi but they cater to a very small population and 95% (of the people) did not have access to it. We have worked to solve such issues that affect the daily lives of people. It has been very satisfactory.
How do you see the Delhi government’s work on education?
This is the first time in India that a party is contesting elections on education. Emotional issues and identity issues such as caste, economic status, and religion have been election issues before. Education will be an election issue for the first time. Since 2015, I have been saying that the country can move forward if elections are fought on issues such as education. I am glad that we are now at a point that we are going to the people asking them to vote for us on education. The election discourse will change for the first time in these polls.
The government plans to set up a new education board. How will that happen and what will it entail?
Delhi does not have its own board. An education board for Delhi is needed. We have started work on this. We have started curriculums on happiness and entrepreneurship, and also opened a sports university. They need to be dynamic. Our education boards across the country are failing. Across the world, education boards adjust to the needs of higher education and professional needs.
We have made two new curriculums, which have been successfully implemented, that don’t involve rote learning or examinations. There are many things for which there is no scope in the Central Board of Secondary Education and other boards. They serve the needs of only 10% and the rest of the students have to go to a coaching centre. This 90% should also be included in the board. The output of these boards should match the input quality needed by colleges and that is the quality we want. This is not an overnight affair. Research and development for this is ongoing. We need to see what the variations in the courses will be.
What is the government’s plan for Deshbhakti Curriculum?
There are many things that are taught as part of civics. This could be following traffic rules, environment protection, or social harmony. All of these are also a part of loving your country. This is taught theoretically but not practically. These will all be a part of the curriculum across all classes. These will not have to be included in examinations.
Delhi’s situation is unique. There are multiple verticals with the Delhi government, the central government, Lieutenant-Governor (LG), and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. What has been your experience in bringing about urbanization? Do you think this affects the last mile closure of projects?
Delhi has the worst model for governance. There are many complexities. For example, there is water drain in my constituency which goes from municipal body, the public works department, under the Delhi government and finally to the highway authority under the central government.
People just want their work done. Governance is about leadership and management. Governance is failing on management. There is no coordination among agencies and as such, there are different ownerships and no accountability, which affects last mile closure.
In the last few weeks, there seems to be a rush to fulfil promises made in the manifesto, as well as new promises. What is the reason behind this?
We need to fulfil all our promises so we are working on them. Things take time. There were many new promises such as providing 200 units of electricity. This was not a poll promise but we found that it was doable.
We came to power and made water free and just before leaving, we are giving free electricity. This is a good thing. The government should do everything before leaving. It will be easier for us in the next term. We have announced that a sports university will be set up. Next week, we will also announce that a skill university will be established. We are preparing for the next tenure.
What will be the features of a degree in the sports university?
The idea of this university is to provide flexibility. There are many people who compromise on performing fields to complete their formal education.
The lieutenant governor has suggested that the university credits for a student should get passed on even if a student decides to change the field in the middle of the course. We will make the dynamics for this so that a student is able to use his credits to get his final degree.
The government has softened its approach towards the central government. Why?
Where we need to fight with the Centre, we do. In the very beginning when Swachh Bharat was launched, Arvind Kejriwal was the first one to support it. The fight against plastic, we are with them. We look forward to the success of such things. If the Centre is doing something for the people, we are with them. If they try and create hurdles in us doing work, we will fight them. Our fight is on issues and that will go on.
What will be your government’s agenda for a second term?
Education is the most important agenda. The work that has been done needs to be taken to a logical conclusion. There are many things which have just taken off... We will work on this and show that every government school can deliver quality and we will fix a minimum standard. We are unfolding our plans for universities now.
The water sector is an area that needs a lot of reforms. Electricity is an area where work has been done. In the next tenure, water will be a key part of the agenda. Education and health will continue to be priority. Other big agendas are unauthorised colonies and redevelopment of slums.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all seven seats in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha election.
The last assembly election was held after the Lok Sabha elections. The mindset of people is clear. Odisha is a critical example where people have shown that they may want different things for the centre and the state. People’s opinions are now clear about what is good for democracy.
There has been a spurt in incidents of crime. What can be done to change this?
The police is not directly under the government. The kind of facilities that we can provide like CCTV cameras, streetlights -- we are doing that. This has increased accountability. We are making a Nirbhaya centre.
What about statehood? Is it still on the agenda?
Statehood is the biggest need. It will come around in two ways—by a government at the Centre that wants it or when people realise and make it into a political discourse. Delhi government cannot bring about statehood. We have been demanding it. There will be a day when it will happen but it depends when. Statehood will be a big solution to many problems.