THE Delhi Government has unleashed an onslaught on the residents of the capital city through power, water and roads. While electricity has been privatised, water is being handed over to the corporate and the road space for private vehicles is shrinking as the Government goes on an overdrive on an ill-managed public transport system. Over 800 illegal settlements have been legalised, allowing sale-purchase with immediate effect, in an apparent bid to facilitate the real estate mafia.
The generosity of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to the private players in the power sector has seen electricity bills going up by three to six times in a matter of a month. This after the state government gave a bail-out package to the private companies – Reliance and Tatas. The Union Power Minister Veerappa Moily unveiled a plan the other day, asking the State Electricity Boards to privatise if they wanted monetary support from the central government. In Delhi, where power distribution and billing have been privatised, the companies running the show have claimed accruing losses and demanded hefty hike in tariff and also doles from the taxpayers’ money. Sheila Dikshit obliged on both counts. Today, the customers in Delhi are paying one of the highest rates for power in the country, especially under the newly introduced slab system, which the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Authority has now promised to repeal. Neither the efficiency nor the supply has become better in Delhi after privatisation. The only change it has made is the ever-increasing electricity bill.
Water is being entrusted to the private sector in Delhi and consequently, there is a huge upward swing in the bills. No part of the city except the VIP areas in New Delhi, receives 24-hour water. Everywhere it is supplied at best a couple of hours in the morning and evening. The sight of private and Delhi Jal Board tankers plying water to various colonies is common as most households do not receive adequate water. Without rectifying the source of supply, the system of distribution and the calibrating the wastage, the state government launched a pilot project on water privatisation in two south Delhi colonies. Now it is being replicated all over the city. The public has participation in this. They are to act as unpaid watchmen to locate and report leakages to the private companies.
Sheila Dikshit, as if waving the magic wand converted over 800 illegal colonies dotted around Delhi into legal residential areas. She has sanctioned immediate permission for sale and purchase, even before their formal registration can take place, opening the door to real estate agents, who are out to make a kill. No survey was done on the viability of such a move, if the available resources can be further shared. Only the captive vote was the consideration as Sheila Dikshit could be preparing for a fight for a record fourth term in office. Several of these colonies, it may be noted, are home to illegal Bangladeshi migrants. With this, they would become legal citizens of this country. The land on which these colonies are settled are both private and public. The Delhi government is yet to explain how it is going to compensate for the loss of such a huge amount of prime land in the National Capital Region.
The Delhi government has built BRT corridors (Bus Rapid Transit) in some of the busiest roads in Delhi. These have been culled out from the existing roads, effectively shrinking the space for private vehicles (two, three and four wheelers) into a single lane. The issue went to the court, which ordered a study by the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI). The study concluded that the BRT was an ill-advised move. The adamant Delhi government informed the court that it wanted to penalise the car users, to force them to shift to public transport. The Delhi High Court has now ordered the restoration of the road. The state government is now planning to build a flyover, but not abandon the BRT. It is in fact proposing to build at least 14 such corridors in Delhi. The arterial roads have been interspersed with speed breakers and traffic signals that are drivers’ nightmare.
In the meanwhile the law and order situation is deteriorating by the day with increasing cases of rape, murder (especially of the elderly), chain snatching and burglary. During the 70s, Delhi had become notorious for chain snatching with most victims being south Indians, who compulsively wear gold. This crime by bike-bound youngsters has returned with the police doing precious little. The CWG scam has been brazened out and all the scamsters are out of jails. In fact, the Delhi government now is a mini-version of the Central government under Manmohan Singh.