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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Delhi saw a slew of reforms in 2011

The shadow of corruption in the Commonwealth Games projects returned to haunt the Delhi government in 2011 but it shrugged off the allegations by initiating key reforms including a politically sensitive move to trifurcate MCD to improve governance and civic facilities.

The severe indictment by the Shunglu Committee and the CAG on CWG spendings had tarred the image of the Delhi government affecting its work but Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, also blamed for certain wrongdoings, pushed through a number of reforms.

One such initiative was implementation of Delhi Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services Act which makes babus liable to pay penalty to citizens for delay in delivering desired services within prescribed time limit.

So far, 6.13 lakh applicants have been provided various services under the provision of the law which had come into effect on September 15, in the backdrop of Anna Hazare's demand for citizens charter.

Another key initiative was introduction of the much- awaited reform in the water sector as doors for the first time were opened for private entities in management, maintenance and distribution of water in select areas on recommendation of the Planning Commission.

The Delhi Assembly on December 1 passed a bill on the proposed trifurcation of MCD, one of the world's largest civic bodies, and the process to split it will be completed once President Pratibha Patil gives her assent to the Bill which also envisage reserving 50 per cent seats for women instead of current 33 per cent.

The MCD splitting again reinforced Dikshit's clout over Delhi Congress as despite stiff opposition from a section of her own party, she went ahead with the move ahead of municipal polls in April next year.

As government was grappling with lack of enthusiasm following allegations of graft in CWG projects, Dikshit carried out a reshuffle of her Cabinet by axing Social Welfare Minister Mangat Ram Singhal and inducting three-time MLA Ramakant Goswami into the Council of ministers.

The revamp, the first such exercise after Dikshit came to power for the third consecutive term also saw senior minister A K Walia losing the urban development, finance and land and building departments.

But almost a week after the reshuffle, the government faced fresh embarrassment when Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin recommended to President Patil to sack PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan from the Cabinet for allegedly trying to protect a leading resort in a tax evasion case. The President in June, however, rejected the recommendation of the anti-corruption watchdog.

Justice Sarin's order had come in a case pertaining to Chauhan's alleged involvement in influencing a team of tax officials when they were carrying out a survey at the premises of the resort in south Delhi in February last year.

In more loss of face, the Lokayukta in July, in a separate order slammed Dikshit for "misrepresenting" facts for announcing in the run up to 2008 assembly polls that 60,000 low-cost flats were ready and recommended to the President to censure her.

The Lokayukta held that Dikshit misrepresented facts to the public knowing well that the flats were not even constructed, in order to "obtain gain or favour to herself or her political party." The President in October "advised" the city government to exercise caution in making announcements while responding to the Lokayukta order.

The embarrassment and controversies, particularly the allegations of corruption in CWG projects had severely affected decision making process resulting in delay in implementation of the projects as according to officials government could only spend around Rs 2,000 crore till October out of the total annual plan outlay of Rs 13,600 crore for 2011-12.

The government had taken strong objection to Shunglu Committee report and sent a nearly 3,000 page response to the Home Ministry trashing the findings, arguing that they were based on "presumptions" and "assumptions". The government had also slammed the CAG report on Games spendings which was tabled in Parliament in first week of August.

However, Dikshit went ahead with her reform agenda which also saw introduction of cluster bus service being run by corporate entities on the lines of similar services those in London and Paris.

In another major initiative, the government completed ground work for launch of an ambitious IT project under which 3D images of all over-ground and underground utilities like telephone lines, power cables, water and sewer lines and roads have been made available on a single portal to facilitate better urban planning and governance.

The government carried out rigorous ground work to record high quality digital images of the assets using geospatial technology. The launch of the project will make Delhi a member of the elite group of cities like New York, London and Paris where such kind of three dimensional mapping of underground and overground utilities are available.

In November, a scheme was launched under which around 7.5 lakh adolescent girl students studying in Delhi government-run schools will get sanitary napkins free of cost. The unique scheme, a brainchild of Dikshit, was initiated to ensure that girl students do not miss out on school due to hygiene-related issues.

In the same month government launched another ambitious scheme under which health check-ups and free treatment will be provided to nearly 14 lakh students studying in government-run schools.

As per efforts to stop "flow of black money" property transactions, the government in October had hiked the circle rates for sale and purchase of property.

Through the Lenses !

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