As a first-time Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit found herself in an unenviable position when she faced the ire of the industrial sector and the working class, who blamed her government for arbitrarily closing down several small-scale units. Dixit's government drew flak also from the Supreme Court for not starting the process of shifting the polluting units to outlying areas despite several orders to the effect. After initially blaming the previous BJP government for the crisis, Sheila Dixit said that all parties should come together to resolve the matter. She also said her government needed more powers with respect to landuse and law and order. Excerpts from an interview she gave T.K. Rajalakshmi.
Do you think your government reacted in a knee-jerk fashion to the Supreme Court's contempt orders?
But relocation was long due as land for the purpose had been identified and acquired. What were the constraints?
The task of relocation is not a joke. We told the Supreme Court to give us four years until 2004 to complete the relocation of some 100,000 industrial units. We also told the court that we need 4,000 acres of land. So far we have got only 1,800 acres on which we can settle only 16,000 units. We need to look at the Master Plan once again. We need time. In any case, the period of the present one gets over in 2001. Considering Delhi's industrial growth, considering that lakhs of families are dependent on t he units, we have to chart out a course that will cause least disruption of industry and that will not cause unemployment. We have to ensure that Delhi does not become a dead city, and at the same time ensure that pollution is controlled. If an industry is not able to move out and is allowed to stay here, it shall be ensured that it follows all the anti-pollution norms.
On what lines would you like the Master Plan to be amended?
We have suggested to the government that areas where industry exists to an extent of more than 70 per cent ought to be declared industrial areas. We have also asked for a wider definition of "household industry" to broaden its scope. We are asking for a change of the Master Plan. We have passed a Bill for the registration of industries.
If the Delhi government is given more powers, will it be able to meet the targets?
Industries could not be shifted because our designs were not passed by the DDA. We would like to have the DDA with us so that it works according to our aspirations. We would also like to have law and order with us. We do not even have the Municipal Corpo ration of Delhi completely with us. We ask them to do something, they do something different. The MCD is the agency which has been giving out licences to the factory units. We have speed breaker at every stop, which stops us from shifting. If all the age ncies work together, we can make plans. We can then make benchmarks. We will first shift the polluting units. Now they are saying 'move the big industries to Haryana and Rajasthan'. We have to see that there is infrastructure there, schools there and com munication facilities as well. We are concerned about the housing requirements of the working class. We tried telling the court about the problems the workers would face, having to travel 30 km to 40 km once the relocation comes into effect.
Has the issue caused a setback in the third year of your term in office?
I don't think so. There is so much of division in the BJP on this issue. It is not the time to apportion blame. You saw how people came out on the streets. This State has reached its economic boom in the last 30 to 40 years. Most of the units now have ef fluent treatment plants. In any case, I would like to say that Delhi's pollution is not caused by industries but by vehicular pollution. For five years the BJP government did nothing. We acquired the land. It is political one-upmanship. It is the Congres s(I) which, in two years, got the land in Bawana and within two months got it passed by the DDA. We need a coordination body that will bring all agencies like the DDA, the Delhi Urban Arts Commission and the National Capital Region Board to work together .