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AAP leap: volunteers take to governance

Kejriwal comes out of a gurdwara in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Jan. 7: Arvind Kejriwal appears to have meant every word he said.

In line with his promise that his would be the common man’s government, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) volunteers have begun training as “tools of governance”, full with government machinery at their disposal.

This morning, the conference room of the Delhi secretariat was seen swarming with AAP volunteers being trained by other party volunteers to become “education monitors”. Not a single department official was present at the session nor has any official order been passed, sources said, although the brainwave was education minister Manish Sisodia’s.

Sisodia had said soon after taking charge that he would not be able to monitor Delhi government schools by himself. As such, he would require an army of “trained” volunteers to visit schools and check out their infrastructure, availability of teachers, water and toilet facilities and everything else.

So, 140 volunteers were selected, two from each of Delhi’s 70 constituencies, to be trained as “education monitors”. The selection was done by the AAP volunteers themselves, and any person above 18 years with any kind of experience in the education sector, including teaching at coaching institutes, was picked up.

The training session was then scheduled to be held in the conference room of the Delhi secretariat. According to officials, today’s was the second session.

The conference room is, however, the property of the Delhi government and is not let out to any other agency to hold meetings or workshops. Any department wanting to use it has to fill up a requisition form to book the room. The chief minister’s office has to clear the request before the room is allotted for use.

It is not known whether Sisodia’s department went through the official steps required to book the conference room.

Asked how a workshop involving AAP volunteers could be held on the Delhi secretariat premises, Sisodia said: “This is not a party programme. These are the education minister’s own volunteers, they will be doing government work. So, why should they go anywhere else?”

Explaining what was going on at the session, an AAP trainer, Ashish Sharma, said: “We are giving the monitors a checklist of things they need to ensure each school has. That includes infrastructure such as water, toilets and benches and, of course, availability of teachers.”

He said AAP volunteers would not visit each school multiple times. “We have told them to visit schools at least once, but mostly they will rely on their own network of people to know the shortcomings of each school.”

The workshop comes a day after Amit Singla, the director of education, was transferred out after differences with Sisodia. Singla is believed to have sought the transfer after the minister pulled him up publicly over the lack of infrastructure in the schools.

Education is not the only area where AAP volunteers have walked in. On December 31, health minister Satyendra Jain dismantled rogi kalyan samitis — the interface between patients and the management — functioning in government hospitals.

The samitis were chaired by the area MLA and members included hospital administration officials, doctors and civil society members.

Sources said AAP volunteers had replaced the committees and were thronging government hospitals, handling patient complaints. Although no official order had been passed, the volunteers were seen entering sensitive areas where visitors are not allowed, they added.

As for the Delhi secretariat, AAP volunteers donning their characteristic caps are seen on all nine floors. Several secretariat staff have begun complaining that they don’t have much of a role to play.

“The meetings are fixed by AAP volunteers, they manage the visitors too. We are just left sitting idle,” said an additional personal secretary.