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Roadside justice for all but lovers
Kejriwal to hold durbar on Saturdays

Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi, Jan. 9: Love him or hate him, but don’t expect Arvind Kejriwal to play matchmaker.

Delhi’s new chief minister has promised “on the spot” roadside justice to citizens but thrown up his hands when it comes to matters of the heart. “The other day a girl came to me saying that her boyfriend is not ready to marry her. Even if a chief minister wants, he cannot do anything about it,” Kejriwal said.

If that comes as a disappointment to lovelorn souls, who had been banking on the do-it-now leader to deliver unto them truant sweethearts, others could look forward to a Saturday morning date with the giant-slaying Aam Aadmi Party boss.

Starting January 11, Kejriwal will sit on the road every Saturday with his six cabinet ministers to hear grievances of citizens. From 9.30am to 11am, Kejriwal and his ministers will hold a public durbar outside the secretariat building, near ITO, where there are no “entry barriers” to stop ordinary citizens from meeting him.

The rest of the week, from Monday to Friday, his ministers will take turns to hear people’s problems. The ministers will hear the grievances regardless of their portfolio.

At all the meetings, heads of every department will have to be present. Even Delhi police, the Delhi Development Authority and civic body MCD, which are not directly under the administrative control of the Delhi government, have been asked by lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung to send representatives to the durbar.

Kejriwal said although he was “reasonably sure” about the success of his anti-corruption drive, he couldn’t say so with certainty when it came to assessing how well he has addressed public grievances.

“I am expecting that people will turn up in thousands. Despite our best efforts and intent, our work might not be up to the mark. But I assure you, as we move along we will make progress. We are starting with honest intentions,” he said.

Kejriwal will not be the first chief minister to hold a janta durbar, or people’s court. Gujarat’s Narendra Modi holds an open house every Tuesday while Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar does it on Mondays.

Gorkha leader Bimal Gurung also announced today that he would hold a janta durbar every Thursday. But Gurung will meet people at the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha office at the Darjeeling Motor Stand, not on the street.

In Delhi, the previous Congress government headed by Sheila Dikshit had started a web portal — Aap Ki Sunwai — where Delhiites could register complaints. The officials concerned had to address the complaints within 21 days. The practice was discontinued apparently because of technical reasons.

Dikshit, whose government had been planning to revive the portal months before it was voted out, said Kejriwal’s durbar was just a repackaging of an old system. “We had a similar thing called Aap ki Sunwai and we also had separate helplines for the water and power departments. He is trying to do something new by wording it differently. What it will achieve only time will tell,” Dikshit told The Telegraph.

Kejriwal said the problem with grievance redress mechanisms so far was that compliance reports have been faulty. “The officer may say that he has solved 93.37 per cent of the problems, which might not be the case. We will ask the victim if he is satisfied or not. In case he says no, then our volunteers will meet the person and try to assess the problem,” he said.

The chief minister said the grievances would be listed in different categories. “There will be grievances which can be solved on the spot. There will be some for which a change in policy will be required. A third set of grievances may be advisory in nature.”

On the anti-corruption helpline, Kejriwal said the response “has been beyond our expectation”.