The Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP's) manifesto for 2015, being released in bits and pieces on Twitter today (31 January), may need closer analysis once we are able to see the fine print of the actual document. But it is unlikely to be substantially different from the vision put out for the 2013 polls, where too the the focus was on the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill, bijli-pani, jan sabhas, etc. We are thus re-publishing our comments on the 2013 manifesto, for the only substantial difference this time may be marginal.
As we noted at that time, the AAP manifesto breaks new ground in some areas, beats the trodden path in others, and promises all manner of good things in several areas that may be impossible to implement or bankroll. Many of the ideas, in fact, point to the need to tax citizens more.
While we can give Arvind Kejriwal and AAP an ‘A’ for effort, we can’t give him more than a ‘B’ for the implementability of large parts of his manifesto. He will have to create a culture change of gigantic proportions in a city used to being mollycoddled by the powers that be.
The manifesto does bring in new ideas, like the one on empowering Mohalla Sabhas and using locals to provide security to women, but questions remain: Will the job be outsourced to local thugs or genuine community samaritans? And are there enough do-gooders around?
The populist parts of the manifesto like giving free water to each household upto 700 litres a day and lowering electricity tariffs are unwise – unless it is clear that the power companies are looting the consumer. This has to be established by a proper study, and not based on Kejriwal’s whims.
Also, large parts of the manifesto are about investing large amounts in health, education, security, and such-like things, but these call for more revenues to be raised from the citizens of Delhi. Is this ever going to be popular? Unless Kejriwal plans to ask the centre for more funds – but this is unlikely, given that the BJP has no love lost for AAP – he will have to find the money elsewhere. Delhi is already the most subsidised metro in the country, living off taxpayer funds, and it is worthwhile taxing Delhi-ites more, but this idea goes against the grain of Kejriwal’s inherent populism. It may be possible to save money by cutting out the cost of corruption, but the first impact of the elimination of corruption - which is the current system - is to destabilise output before people adjust to the new ethos. So a rise in revenues quickly to pay for all the expenses is unlikely.
The real let-down is that Kejriwal’s manifesto does not come up with really innovative ideas on how the vision is going to be realised. The manifesto is pretty thin on implementation. Presumably, the Mohalla Sabhas and other newly-empowered structures will come up with the ideas.
A more philosophical contradiction is this: Kejriwal has been railing about government, and a lot of the problems people have with government is that it is too big and unresponsive. This is why it is corrupt. If this is the diagnosis, does making the public sector and government sector bigger a solution? Will bigger government not worsen corruption? Or will the Jan Lokpal become the new Gestapo force, getting officials to toe the line?
In sum, we have to laud the intent, but we need to hold judgment till we see how AAP actually goes about implementing its utopia.
Given below are the main highlights of the AAP Delhi manifesto, and our comments in bold after each point.
THE AAP MANIFESTO - 2013
1. Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill
Commitment to passing Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill within 15 days of coming to power. All public servants to fall under its purview. (Doable if AAP gets a majority on its own. The last time Kejriwal foolishly resigned merely because the BJP and Congress objected to his refusal to get the Centre's permission to introduce the bill. This time could be different. The election campaign does not lay too much stress on the Lokpal Bill, but it could happen in due course).
Time-bound investigation and swift disposal of corruption cases. Cases against Ministers, MLAs and Secretaries would be completed in six months to one year. (Doable, but this will need the selection and appointment of fast-track courts, which need the concurrence of the central government and the courts).
Lokpal would have financial, administrative and investigative independence. It would have the power to initiate investigation and prosecution against corrupt public servants. Those found guilty of corruption would be removed from their jobs, sent to jail and their property confiscated. (Partly doable, but Kejriwal has to provide the budgets. The process of sending people to jail is not upto Kejriwal, but the higher courts, where appeals can be filed.)
Citizens’ charter for every government office, setting a time limit for any citizens’ work at a Government office. Concerned officer to be fined if the work is not completed within the time limit. (Doable, but he should try and get officials on his side first. If they are disgruntled, they will scuttle the administration).
Encouragement to honest officers and protection to whistleblowers (Entirely doable)
Devolving power directly to people; decisions about development in any locality to be taken by Mohalla Sabhas; payments for any work (roads, pavement, etc) to be released only once the work is approved by Mohalla Sabhas. (Okay idea in theory. Kejriwal needs to give this process a proper structure so that citizen power is harnessed. His future political potential depends on how successful this devolution is. May need changes in revenue-raising devolution to lower levels of government).
Mohalla Sabhas to monitor the functioning of local school, primary health centres, ration shops. (Good idea, absolute must. All depends on whether these sabhas are genuinely people-based, or will be packed with AAP loyalists. If BJP citizens are excluded, there is scope for acrimony.)
Demand for full statehood to Delhi, so that MCD, DDA and Delhi Police are directly controlled by the Delhi government. (Demand is sound, but central and big party-politics will have a role to play here. Problem is Delhi is the most subsidised city in India, with the centre pitching in with huge taxpayers funds. Giving its statehood without subsidies will mean Kejriwal will not have enough money to even maintain Delhi’s current infrastructure. If he wins, he has to make his peace with the centre).
Delhi’s consumers have been getting inflated bills due to malpractices by Discoms. AAP promises a reduction of consumers’ electricity expenditure by 50%. This will be done by ordering an audit of discoms, rectifying inflated bills and getting electricity bills checked by independent agencies. Licences would be cancelled of any discoms that refuse the audit (The right thing to do is order the audit. Promising a discount in advance means he could find himself fighting the discoms in courts and the electricity regulators) .
Discoms would be brought under RTI and their accounts made more transparent. Discome monopolies would be ended and consumers would be allowed to choose between two electricity providers. (Good idea. This is allowed under the Electricity Act that Vajpayee changed in 2003, but incumbents like state electricity boards, nursing huge losses, have more or less killed the idea).
Incentives and subsidies to promote solar energy; target of meeting 20% of Delhi’s electricity needs via solar energy in the next ten years. Individuals installing solar panels in their houses would be allowed to sell extra electricity to the grid. (Doable. States like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat already allow households to feed solar power into the grid. Not a new idea – but worth doing)
Water is the biggest concern of the aam aadmi in Delhi, as more than 50 lakh people do not get piped water in their homes. AAP is committed to ensuring that all households in Delhi get water in their homes, irrespective of whether they are in slums or unauthorised colonies. Households using up to 700 litres of water (per day) would be given free water. (Bad idea. Free water in an era of impending water shortages will ensure waste and corruption. A better idea is to price water, with maybe a price that moves up with higher usage. Delhi’s poor already pay a lot for tanker water, so paying for water is not likely to be resisted.)
Transparency would be introduced in the functioning of the Delhi Jal Board, who currently keep no account of how much water is received from different sources and how much water is supplied to each area. Bulk meters would be installed and their data put on the DLB website every day. Clamp-down on tanker mafia. (This must be done, but Kejriwal will have to fight the vested interests. It will also result in law and order problems. Kejriwal needs policing powers before he can ensure this).
AAP opposes the privatisation of the Delhi Jal Board and is committed to the public provision of water to all citizens. (Nothing wrong in keeping water under public ownership, but the key is to price water correctly – even if it is kept cheap for the poor).
Long run solutions to Delhi’s water situation would focus on city-wide rainwater harvesting, reviving Delhi’s water bodies and the conservation and recycling of water. (Eminently doable. Only needs incentivisation and monitoring).
5. Sanitation and Waste Management
More than 15 lakh people in Delhi do not have toilets in their homes; this is a cause of ill-health and insecurity, especially women. AAP is committed to building 2 lakh community and public toilets in Delhi. (The best way to do it is on a public-private model where Delhi gives the land for toilets, and toilets are built by private parties on a pay-and-use basis. The Sulabh Shauchalaya model already exists as an operational model – needs to be scaled up).
More than 40 lakh people in Delhi do not have sewerage lines taking the waste-water from their homes to sewage treatment plants. AAP is committed to connecting all households to the sewage network, irrespective of whether they are in slums or unauthorised colonies. Small, decentralised sewage plants would be built, which would be managed by Mohalla Sabhas. (Again, a public private partnership that pays for itself is the best way forward).
Waste would be managed with the direct participation of people; there would be separation of bio-degradable and non-biodegradable waste at the household level and littering would be heavily fined. (Again, many cities have begun doing this. (Worth doing. The Mohalla Sabhas should be empowerd to monitor this and fine errants).
6. Women’s Security
Citizens’ Security Forces would be formed with a branch in each ward, who would provide security to anyone in distress, but with special focus on security of women, children and senior citizens. (Again, this is a Mohalla Sabha project. Kiran Bedi's ideas look much better as they involve the regular police and others).
Ensuring swift dispensing of justice in case of crimes against women by establishing special fast track courts; implementation of recommendations of the Verma Committee. (Doable, but this will need the selection and appointment of fast-track courts, which need the concurrence of the central government and the courts).
Ensuring lighting and security provisions on roads, parks, buses and all public spaces.(It’s largely about providing the money to expand policing).
Commitment to improving the standard of government schools, so that all citizens of Delhi – whether rich or poor – would have access to high quality of education. Government schools to be made as good as private schools. (It’s about investing money, finding donors and private parties with expertise to manage public schools, etc).
A law would be introduced to regulate high fees and donations in private schools and colleges. (This is unnecessary. If public schools are made better, why worry about the rich who want to pay more for their schools? Maybe higher fees are the way to subsidise schools for the poor)
New colleges would be opened for students from Delhi. Delhi government-run universities, like Ambedkar University, would be expanded. (No sweat)
Employment of contractual/temporary teachers in both government and private schools and colleges shall be stopped and all posts would be regularised. (This is popular, but doable. But it will push up costs. Does he have the funds?)
Government health care facilities would be improved (and made as good as private hospitals) so that all citizens of Delhi – rich or poor – have access to high quality health care. New government hospitals would be opened to ensure Delhi conforms to the international norm of 5 beds for every thousand people. New primary health centres would be established. (Always worth investing more in healthcare for the poor, but funding will be important – unless there are thoughts on charging user fees for public healthcare services)
Use of generic medicines would be promoted to reduce patient expenses on medicines (Not a novel idea, but worth doing)
Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Homeopathy and Unani medical systems would play an important role in the government healthcare facilities. New hospitals would be opened for these systems of medicine. (Sounds like a good idea, but a lot depends on how we separate charlatans from the real good practitioners of traditional medicine).
Large percentage of diseases in Delhi are caused by polluted air, contaminated water and improper waste disposal; AAP would work on controlling these for a long-term solution. A special task force would work on a war-footing to control dengue in Delhi. (Nothing to disagree with. Again, the issue will be action against those who pollute – Delhi is host to the largest number of small units that release effluents into the Jamuna, or pollute the atmosphere. The laws are managed through corruption)
9. Delhi’s Villages
Gram Sabhas would be empowered to make decisions regarding Delhi’s villages including extension of Lal Dora; land acquisition in these villages would be possible only with permission of Gram Sabha (Doable).
Adequate number of schools and hospitals would be provided; farmers would be provided agricultural subsidies; sports facilities would be improved (It’s all about money, not the intent).
10. Unauthorised Colonies
Regularisation of unauthorised colonies based on rates decided in the notification of March 24, 2008 (Populist, but already done. BJP has already issued an ordinance to regularise many colonies.)
Process of authorisation, planning and supervisions development works would be done by the local Mohalla Sabha, with direct participation of the people (Difficult to implement; where is the technical expertise for this in mohallas? The presumption that Mohalla’s will have the right ideas and will not have vested interests is questionable)
Rehabilitation of people living in slums – flats/plots would be provided on site, or as near as possible to existing location of slums. Process of rehabilitation to be done in consultation with the people. (Idea is fine, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating).
Till rehabilitation is done, no slums will be demolished; improvement in local living conditions will be made with provision of water, sewerage lines and proper waste management. (If rehab is done first, the tendency for slum-dwellers will be to stay put and rent out their new homes – this is what happened in parts of Mumbai’s Dharavi)
12. Inflation and Unemployment
While inflation is due to central government policies, AAP would take measures to ensure basic facilities remain within reach of the aam aadmi; these would include electricity expense reduction, 700 litres of water made available for free, government provision of high quality education and health, regulating fees of private schools and strict action against hoarders (Will he raise taxes to fund all this largesse?)
For increasing employment AAP shall fill all vacant government posts, provide better facilities to industrial areas and provide young entrepreneurs loans at low interest rates. (Where’s the Money, Honey?)
13. Other Economic Issues
Traders: Simplifying VAT structures and opposing FDI in retail (Simplification is a great idea, but the idea of not allowing FDI in retail will raise distribution costs and consumer prices. Also, if big Indian companies can set up retail, why not Wal-Mart? But then, the BJP is also not too gung-ho abour retail opening up. So no issue here.)
Industry: Improving facilities in industrial areas and simplifying licensing procedures (Must be done. If Kejriwal can end the Delhi government’s inspector raj, small business will root for him)>
Contract Labour: No contractual jobs for work that is required 365 days a year; ensuring implementation of minimum wages (Unwise move. The best way to improve employment is to make jobs flexible. A better way to reduce contract labour is to indicate proportions of labour that can be employed on a contract basis).
Unorganised sector: Ensuring social security for unorganised sector workers; regulating wages and working hours of domestics workers; improving working condition of rag-pickers (All worthwhile. Regulating domestic labour is a good idea, especially in Delhi where they get treated the worst. But he will find the middle class resistant to the idea)..
Street Vendors: licenses and fixed locations to be given to street vendors (Without heavy policing, hawking will be impossible to control).
Establishing a Unified Transport Authority for a holistic transport policy, commitment to providing high quality public transport in Delhi (Can be done. The benefits will depend on what this unified authority is supposed to achieve).
Expansion of DTC bus service and Delhi Metro; improving and making secure last mile connectivity via feeder buses, shared auto-rickshaws and e-rickshaws (Will he regulate the really poor segment of rickshaw drivers by forcing them to ply feeder routes?).
Making pavements and cycle tracks on all possible roads; removing unnecessary route restrictions on rickshaws (Some of it may be doable, but this should be done only after a proper study of costs and benefits. Investing in public transport is a better bet. Cycling may be an option in outlying suburbs, but may not be feasible in city centre)
Auto Rickshaws: Increasing auto stands, streamlining procedure for purchasing auto-rickshaws and preventing black marketing, preventing police harassment and revising auto fares in an ongoing manner (No brainer).
Priority to sewage treatment and industrial effluent treatment to prevent polluted water from flowing in Yamuna; preventing encroachment on Yamuna river-bed (Easier said than done, but worth doing)
Protecting Delhi Ridge by clamping down on encroachment; ongoing afforestation in Delhi
Animal Welfare Board to be given enforcement authority, and not merely be an advisory body. (No issues)
16. Social Justice
Scheduled Castes: Ensuring SC component plans is spent on welfare schemes for SCs and reservations implemented; providing low or zero-interest loans for setting up their livelihood (Schemes already exist at central level. Why aren’t they being used?).
Valmikis: Ending contractualisation in safai karamchari posts, providing educational and livelihood opportunities to help them find employment in fields other than those of safai karamcharis (Vital for social change).
Muslims: Ending harassment by police and prosecution of Muslim youth in false cases, improving functioning of Delhi wakf board (This is an assumption that can’t be generalised. The police harass as many non-minority citizens as minority ones)
Victims of 1984 Sikh massacre: Providing justice to victims of 1984 riots, re-opening wrongly closed cases, improving living conditions in areas like Tilak Nagar where many victims now live. (Absolutely vital – but proof is now missing to prosecute and jail others after the lapse of so many years).
Status of Punjabi and Urdu as second language: Providing them genuine status as second language by ensuring adequate facilities and filling vacant posts (After English and Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu would be third and fourth languages, not second).
Persons with Disability: Expanding definition of disability, ensuring their admission into schools and colleges; priority to making all public buildings barrier-free and accessible. (Modifications required in public buildings for this, but would be a good gesture).
Other marginalised groups: Efforts to end discrimination against and improve living conditions of nomadic communities (NT/DNT), trans-genders and other marginalised communities. (No issues with the intent.)
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Updated Date: Jan 31, 2015 15:45:46 IST