“Delhi is surely a better city to live in today than it was 15 years ago,” said Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna while delivering his address on the first day of the Budget Session of the Delhi Assembly on Wednesday as he went on to announce the various policies and initiatives taken or planned by the Delhi Government to improve the lot of the citizens.
While his words were applauded by the Congress members, including Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party was cautiously critical of them as it sat through his address without creating any major ruckus. The party has apparently been told by Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel to participate in the House proceedings and not stage walk-outs.
Though Mr. Khanna’s address noted that “a whole generation, that believes and takes for granted the Metro, low-floor buses, 24 hours electric supply and even the increased green cover as features of Delhi life, does not realize that they were non-existent 12 years ago”, it really took the BJP by surprise by pointing out that the power privatisation process had led to savings of Rs. 30,000 crore to the Delhi Government.
Similarly, the address did not make a reference to the December 16 gang rape but noted that “for expeditious disposal of cases relating to crime against women” approval has been given for setting up of five special courts which are now functional; and the round-the-clock helpline was launched on ‘181’ for women in distress.
It also proposed to introduce a citizen feedback system using mobile phones for status of streetlights and de-silting of drains.
In the nearly 25 minute address, Mr. Khanna also noted that reforms in the power sector have led to significant improvements in the distribution and transmission of power. At this several BJP MLAs held aloft power bill copies and charged that inflated bills were being served by the discoms to cheat the consumers.
On the water front, Mr. Khanna said over 200 kilometres of old pipelines have been replaced in the last year and Delhi Jal Board has laid sewer lines in 541 unauthorised colonies and 129 urbanised villages.
He also painted a rosy picture of the environment saying Delhi’s green cover has increased from 26 square km in 1997 to about 296 sq. km.
The Lieutenant Governor noted that to provide decent housing to those living in slums or suffering the insecurity of a shelter over their heads, the Government has regularised 895 unauthorised colonies and is in the process of removing the hindrances in regularisation of the remaining ones.
On the economic front, he said while more ambitious tax revenue targets were set and are likely to be achieved despite the slowdown, the efficient management has also resulted in reducing outstanding debt to 7.89 per cent as a ratio of the gross State domestic product, which is the lowest among all the States in the country.
He said Delhi contributes 3.8 per cent to the GDP and its per capital income in 2012-13 was about three times the national level, while the inflation was lowest among metropolitan cities, leading to a better quality of life for the citizens.
Mr. Khanna said to increase the availability of resources, the Government has also taken up the matter of Delhi’s share in Central taxes with the Centre as that was frozen at Rs. 325 crore for the last 10 years.
He also spoke about how in the year gone by State Resident Data Hub has been set up with the support of UIDAI to enable authentication of Aadhar; transfer of cash benefits under Annashree Yojana was launched in December, and Public Grievance Commission was declared the Police Complaint Authority.
In the last year, he said e-stamping of judicial stamp paper was introduced; and district administration was restructured with setting up of e-Sub Registrar offices.
Following the Congress Legislative Party meeting, Ms. Dikshit said the party legislators had called for doing away with laxity in the various departments and releasing funds for development works promptly.