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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 8, February 15, 2014

AAP Must Clear Policy Confusion: Running a Government is a Sober and Serious Business

Monday 17 February 2014, by Rajindar Sachar

It is hoped that the Delhi Law Minister has understood Article 227 of the Constitution of India providing for the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. He, along with Chief Minister Kejriwal, had an audience with the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court the other day so as to remove any impression of even indirect interference in the domain of the judiciary. It does not behove an AAP Minister to reach late by one hour and disrupt the screening of a film at a public centre to deliver a lecture. Is this not more act of a feudal lord than that of an elected Minister? The AAP Government also needs to clarify its announced policy of 95 per cent of the Delhiites only being eligible for the Delhi colleges—a policy opposed by the DUTA and student associations.

It is self-evident that any political party must present a defined socially-relevant policy. That the country should have a corruption-free government is unexceptional and no party can possibly say to the contrary. People naturally will judge it by actual experience. But then people want to know whether the objectives laid down by our founders of the Constitution are the ones on which any government, State or Central, is functioning. Some of the basic unalterable objectives of our Constitution postulate the government’s active role in developing an inclusive society with special consideration for the minorities like the Muslims and the Christians, and to minimise inequalities in society. In short, any political party must spell out clearly its position vis-à-vis the big corporate sector, foreign as well as Indian, and its commitment to socialism and the public sector, emphasised by Dr Ambedkar as being the objective of the Constitution. Unfortunately, on all these policy matters there is a resounding silence from the side of the AAP.

It is not enough to say that a party is committed to the poor—that bald declaration is made by even neo-fascist groups all over the world, including India. A party has to spell out the instruments it will apply to achieve the growth of the economy. In India public sector undertakings like Oil India and NTPC are a strong bulwark of growth as against the failure of some of the biggest private sector corporations, the hands of some of them being sullied by the Coalgate and telecom scandals. With that experience for a party to cast a doubt on the public sector existence is to betray the constitu-tional mandate. Also a party going national must also indicate its position on the ongoing policy of the Central Government in selling off the family silver (PSUs) to private predators. The AAP policy against FDI in retail is, of course, in the right direction.

The right to food is an absolute right of every citizen in the country. The PUCL has been fighting for the acceptance of the right in the Supreme Court for years—it is because of this that the governments have been obligated to pass the Right to Food Act for supplying the food at subsidised prices. But if a party has doubts about the subsidy, then it must enlighten the public how the poor are to get even the minimum food required for keeping alive.

The AAP Government is obligated to clear its policy on the demand of the Socialist Party and Pension Parishad to raise the pension for Delhi’s elderly people who get a monthly minimum pension of Rs 5000.

An immediate response from the AAP Government is called for to the danger of displacement of lakhs of people, pointed out by Medha Patkar, the NAPM leader, due to the decision on the Delhi-Mumbai and Amritsar-Kolkata corridors being activated soon.

The self-praise by the AAP that it has solved the water problem in Delhi is cynical. The supply of 700 liters free water a day means nothing to about 40 per cent of the people simply because there are no water pipes in their areas and the government is not supplying water at all. They depend on water-mafia tankers available at exorbitant rates. Areas like Zakir Nagar and Sangam Vihar have the DJB water pipes passing them by at a little distance but the DJB refuses to connect these areas, thus leaving them at the mercy of the mafia. In fact, the experiment of privatisation of water must be discontinued. This facility must remain in the public sector as the right to water is a human right.

No doubt, corruption is an evil eating into the vitals of our society. But you do not fight it by spreading suspicion about every one’s honesty excepting those belonging to the ruling party. To what dangerous proportion this is sought to be practised is clear when the AAP unabashedly announces that its government is creating a service which will teach public callers how to conduct a sting operation. The government feels this will create a fear psychosis in each civil servant. This is frightening. This method reminds me of the system devised during the decadent period of the USSR regime when Russian children were indoctrinated to spy on their parents and report to the secret service and were then publicly honoured. Corruption is not eased out by such hare-brained sting operations but rather by the top of the administration being above reproach.

It is a pity that Chief Minister Kejriwal has announced with a boastful flourish that the defaulters of the electricity bills from March 2013 onwards belonging to his party will not be required to pay the arrears and instead these will be paid by the Delhi Government. The justification given is that it has to be assumed that all these defaulters were part of the “andolan” launched in March by the AAP. This is a dangerous view apart from being legally impermissible. The State Government cannot distinguish between people who vote for or against it. As it is, a question may well be asked at this partiality by lakhs of voters who had paid their electricity bills and also voted for the AAP: Are some people more equal than others? It needs to be continuously remembered that running a government is a sober business and not a public bluster or empty rhetoric.

The author, a retired Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, was the Chairperson of the Prime Minister’s high-level Committee on the Status of Muslims and the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing. A former President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), he is a tireless champion of human rights. He can be contacted at e-mail: rsachar1@vsnl.net/rsachar23 @bol.net.in