The Telegraph
Friday , January 10 , 2014
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The actual, bare, skeletal cost to the Delhi Public Works Department for the swearing-in of Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party — a party with a difference that claims it is against all frills, pomp and show — was Rs 75 lakhs! Add to this figure the other trappings of the attendant police force et al, and it smacks of the same kind of political expenditure that parties allocate to themselves for celebration. There was nothing austere that set a new standard. The ‘desire’ of the new chief minister of Delhi to have an enactment of the Delhi assembly in the Ramlila grounds to pass the jan lok pal bill in the ‘company’ of the citizens of this state and not in the assembly chamber is an equally extravagant act on which much money and organization skills will have to be spent. A live telecast would have taken the images across the country. These tamashas deviate from the urgent work at hand.

The jhadu should begin to sweep clean the slums of Delhi, immediately ensure piped potable water, public toilets, and one bulb per jhuggi which lights up at sunset and stays on till dawn, at the very least. Volunteers could have done the sweeping by now. Within a week, water and electricity supply could have been ensured to show their true intention. Nothing has happened. And if that is the job of the municipality, the seva dal of the AAP should force them to do their work diligently. Instead of ‘summoning’ the law secretary and demanding that he summon the state judges to meet the law minister — much like what other political dispensations have done in the past — the Kejriwal government could have been a trifle nuanced and restrained itself from alienating its team of administrators.

Way forward

Why has the party not initiated simple measures such as the ‘open redressal window’, attaching one to each department and ministry, to accept petitions with real complaints of the citizens who are harassed by the babu with demands for bribes and much else? Volunteers from various professions who claim to be aam aadmi (and aurat, I hope as well) supporters, should sift through the complaints and force officers to address them in a time-bound and unwavering commitment.

The interview that Kejriwal’s colleague, Yogendra Yadav, gave to a news anchor, both sitting rather pretentiously on two khatiyas with a field of sarson as the backdrop, was a real cliché. It took me back to the Krishi Darshan programmes of Door Darshan, circa 1970. India has moved on, as have the backdrops and other props. This is not what Delhi expects from its new government. The AAP members are, like all others, forever appearing on the small screen in interviews and other programmes. Maybe their ‘volunteers’, the sena of the people, should represent the leadership on television. Enough of pontification and spewing of highfalutin, disconnected bits and bobs, promising change. Let us see some simple, straightforward action.

Garbage is piled high along pedestrian walkways, litter rules the streets, traffic is anarchic, policemen stand away from where they should be and chat on their mobile phones. There is a rapid deterioration that is evident by the day in this capital city. The jhadu needs to clean up the mess that surrounds the physical space, starting from the slums and then moving through the colonies. Simultaneously, the AAP’s crack team of intellectual advisors should create, very quickly in a few weeks, the blueprint for organizational radical reform. Sacking and transferring babus en masse will not solve the problem but aggravate it. The operating manual needs to be overhauled, rather, rewritten on a clean slate. Not difficult at all. If there is an astute and trained mind with a clear will, the way forward is simple.