Is Delhi’s Dream Turning Out to be a Nightmare?

Written by: Pathikrit
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Arvind Kejriwal
New Delhi, Feb 1:  Even as Delhi was recovering from the shocking theatre of protest by the newly sworn Chief Minister of Delhi in front of the Rail Bhawan, resulting in disruption of Metro services and pitched battles between police and AAP supporters, the announcement of the electricity distribution companies of Delhi of possible power blackouts for several hours every day and the gruesome killing of an Arunachal teenager in the Lajpat Nagar Market where he was allegedly beaten to death by some local shopkeepers, came as shockers to everyone.

To top it all, the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission has allowed the hike in the power rates by 6-8%.

The elevation of the Aam Aadmi Party and its stupendous debut, resulting in the appointment of Aravind Kejriwal as the new Chief Minister of Delhi was presumed by many as a reflection and culmination of Delhi's quest for change. With his elevation came the populist decisions to reduce the electricity tariff by half for those who use up to 400 units of electricity and around 20 kilo litre of free water every month.

Yet a month after such populist decisions, even as the Chief Minister of Delhi cry foul of the decision of the power companies and that of DERC, one has to look into some hard realities to understand the predicament of the situation.

There is no denying the fact that power is not a free endowment of mother earth like oxygen. Power has to be produced and there are costs involved which keeps on varying because of hard economic factors. A populist government may try to ignore them but economic rational prove otherwise. And eventually economic reality overtakes populism.

One has to remember the populist stance of Kejriwal way back in October 2012 when he restored the power connection of a family which was disconnected by the electricity distribution company for failure to pay dues.

For long Kejriwal has been asking people to forcefully restore connections wherever they have been cut, not to pay electric bills and promised to even exempt people from paying electricity dues when he comes to power. Those actions may be good to garner popularity when in opposition but eventually boomerangs when in power.

Issues of power crisis and allegations of racial discrimination come to haunt the capital of India

Today the combined arrears BYPL, one of electricity distribution of companies of Delhi is Rs 6200 crore and banks have stopped giving fresh credit owing to the appalling subsidy regime that incumbent government of Delhi has put in place. Meanwhile NTPC, which supplies bulk of the power to Delhi, has flatly refused to supply any more power, in spite of requests by the Delhi Government, if the previous dues are not cleared.

This has created a situation when long power cuts are inevitable in Delhi much to the disbelief and discomfort of an incredibly populist government in Delhi but can AAP and Kejriwal blame anyone else for all this?

Issues of inflated bills or faulty meters are pertinent ones and should ideally be solved with increased competition among power distribution companies, but to summarily encourage people not to pay the dues is anarchic to the least the result of which is evident now and is expected to turn for worse.

Meanwhile whispers and jokers are going around if AAP Government meant power cuts of 8-10 hours when they promised 50% reduction in bills because bills would invariably be halved if power cuts for such long period continue every day.

If the issue of power blackout was not enough, the ugly face of hate crimes and racism once again surfaced in Delhi when a teenager from Arunachal was allegedly beaten to death by some local shopkeepers over a minor brawl. Delhi for long has been a melting pot of different cultures, yet quite often instances of atrocities on people of Northeast have shamed the National Capital.

While one would still have to wait for the final autopsy result to ascertain the real cause of death of Nido Taniam and whether it was primarily because of beating, there cannot be any denial of the fact that issues of racial discrimination against people of Northeast do remain and that there is a need to deal it with an iron hand. It is not uncommon to find people of Northeast India being taunted with most derogatory words like ‘Chinki' or being even referred as Nepali, a reflection of the enormity of geographical ignorance that some people of mainland India have.

In fact one cannot completely absolve India's ‘powers that be' and the architects of education system for never having put any real effort, beyond the tokenism of ‘Unity in Diversity' to make people of mainland India aware of the contribution of Northeast India.

Be it their participation in large numbers in the armed forces, be it them standing at the frontier of India's borders with China and constantly withstanding the Chinese challenge or be it their indigenous culture which has its own beautiful essence, each of these is an integral part of the idea of India.

Coming close on the heels of the incident of Delhi Law Minister's alleged misbehaviour with a Ugandan Woman in the Malviya Nagar locality of South Delhi, the death of Nido Taniam is expected to raise serious questions about the issues of racism permeating the Delhi culture.

The ‘please all’ approach and ‘helpless aam aadmi’ rhetoric may not help anymore

One can also term the proposed move of the Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia to have 90% reservation in Delhi University colleges for locals only, as a discriminatory move and puts an overall question as to whether Delhi is only for residents of Delhi. Was not the National Capital supposed to be a place for all and belonging to all Indians to the least? Was not every India supposed to be welcome in their Nation's Capital?

While people wait with bated breath to see as to how the incumbent Delhi Government deal with these problems, a realisation is perhaps dawning on the AAP members and its government that activism and protest may not be a cure for all malaise and ills.

Thus while people expect some rational decisions to be taken to curb racist acts, and to solve the power crisis, the activist Kejriwal may have to take some hard decisions as a Chief Minister. The ‘please all' approach and ‘helpless aam aadmi' rhetoric may not help anymore. Yet, if Kejriwal persists with his warning of a retaliatory move to cancel licences of the distribution companies instead of solving the issues involved, some real crisis and chaos is waiting to happen in India's Capital Region.

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