HEAVY power cuts, inefficiency of the private power distribution companies (discoms), and the two Metro Railway accidents have caused serious embarrassment to the Delhi government. Now, the question raised is: Is Delhi ready to host the Commonwealth Games next year?
In an exclusive interview to Frontline, Sheila Dikshit, serving as the Chief Minister of Delhi for a third consecutive time, talks about these issues and also how the city is gearing up for the Games. Excerpts:
How are the preparations for the Commonwealth Games coming along?
There are several agencies the Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Culture, the Delhi government, the DDA [Delhi Development Authority], the MCD [Municipal Corporation of Delhi], and the NDMC [New Delhi Municipal Council] all are involved in it.
So to bring their planning together, there is a Group of Ministers planning committee, which meets every 15 days. Delhi is the host city, so the brickbats and the bouquets will belong to the Delhi government eventually. We hope that we will be able to do it.
The Commonwealth Games Federation has already issued a sort of warning. Just a year before the Games, it is said that only 40 per cent of the work has been completed.
You see, there may be areas where 40 per cent of the work has been done, but I dont think that is so across the city. The deadline is March-April next year, which will be four to five months before the Games, so that the nitty gritty are worked out. I am constantly visiting places. I dont know how people came up with a figure of 40 per cent.
Whatever was required by the Indian Olympic Association was given to them. They have asked us for some 570-odd air-conditioned buses. We will give it to them even if we have to take some off our roads. All that is happening, and its not obviously visible to people, thats why they are saying nothing is happening.
There are some labour problems in the Commonwealth Games village.
I believe there were. We have said that you pay your labourers by cheque. Specifications will have to be given by the IOA regarding labour conditions.
You see, I am not responsible for everything around the Commonwealth Games. But as a person who is in charge of the host city, I do feel responsible and work, prod everybody there.
The recent Metro Railway accidents have put your government and the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation (DMRC) under the scanner. Are safety parameters being violated?
The Metro is a corporation. Both we and the Government of India have a share, but the real power has been given to the corporation with [E.] Sreedharan at the top. Its been something that has been talked about internationally.
The accidents have been very unfortunate. But I still say that we have to get on with the work. The criticism has come in just now. I think Sreedharan is also clear in his mind that we have to get on.
While you seem to suggest that there should not be any separate probe, your Transport Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely seems to think otherwise.
I dont know why Mr. Lovely made that statement, but there are no differences in the Cabinet. We are clear that the DMRC has to be given independence.
Gammon India has also had a bad history. How is the overall equation with the organisation?
Gammon was chosen as L&T or any other company is. Now, Gammon has made other parts also and they seem to be alright. It seems to me that there was a slight defect in the design. Whether Gammon is responsible or the engineers who designed it we will have to wait as Gammon is not the designer. They are the contractors.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has accused the DMRC of violating safety parameters and has blamed the Delhi government for intervening in the CAGs independence regarding the audit of the DMRC.
I have not seen the CAG report. I do not know whether it has been taken out of context. The CAG report gave us some three or four sentences on power privatisation, and today this privatisation is seen as the most successful in the country. Its been talked about in the Economist also. There are always two sides to a point. Nobody talked about the CAG report earlier.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and even the Public Accounts Committee headed by your own legislator, S.C. Vats, have accused the Delhi government of leading a scam in the whole power privatisation process.
Prove the scam. His reasons were motivated or not, I would not like to say. I hope they were not. And in all these years, we have not raised the tariff but once. So you cant blame us. Meters are now all over Delhi. This has been a bad year. Within our city we carried a huge campaign from April to use power wisely. We have controlled thefts.
The private discoms sold more electricity than they bought. The BSES, in fact, sold the maximum electricity during the worst phase of crisis. Your comment.
All States are trading in power. I know they were not buying it because the price was high. When it was at the peak they were buying little. But when it was short, they were selling off. I have told them that whether it is Rs.5 or Rs.50, you have to buy power.
After all, you are the ones who get it at Rs.2.72 also. You work out the average. But they are people in business.