Tempers ran high at the Delhi Secretariat where the Aam Aadmi Party Government held its first Janata Durbar on Saturday.
The venue lacked provisions like drinking water and public toilets. Complainants were found arguing with officials manning the help desks for not even having made arrangements for basic logistics such as staplers and official stamps to issue acknowledgement receipts of their applications.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told a press conference later that they were expecting only a few hundred people but close to 7,000 people showed up to air their grievances ranging from inflated power bills, request for regularising jobs and faulty sewer connections.
While addressing the crowd, Mr. Kejriwal assured the people that he had “largely understood their problems” and would look into them in a time-bound manner.
Mini-demonstration broke out outside the Secretariat after the people, who had come to meet Mr. Kejriwal, were left unheard. “The Janata Durbar should have been organised at constituency levels. We have been waiting since morning to meet the Chief Minister but we have heard he has left,” said Jai Prakash Rana, a resident of Jahangirpuri.
PWD minister Manish Sisodia was seen pacifying the agitated crowd near one of the Secretariat gates. When the situation seemed to go out of hand, Mr. Kejriwal came back to address the crowd himself. “I admit there were lapses. We will have to improve the arrangements. If I had not left the place then there was a possibility of a stampede. Everybody wanted to meet me,” he said.
“We will streamline the system so that a similar situation does not recur and will meet you in 3-4 days again,” he added, inviting applause from the public, which also included his party volunteers.
The crowd comprising women, elderly, youth and persons with disabilities was largely dominated by contractual workers from various government departments like the Delhi Transport Corporation, power companies, different government hospitals and municipal corporations.
While the police had put up barricades along the road outside the Secretariat as well as other arterial roads nearby, the crowd management went haywire as the gathering swelled and Mr. Kejriwal, who had by then met barely two dozen complainants, had to be escorted out by the security personnel.
“The complaints which he took were varied in nature ranging from sewer connection, inflated bills to a man who had come all the way from Uttarakhand to get help in obtaining a death certificate of his relative,” said an official in the Chief Minister’s office.
The officials said all the help desks on an average received 500 applications. Law Minister Somnath Bharti said: “The complainants have been given a unique ID, which can be used to follow up the developments over their grievances online.”