Will the party, that makes its debut in this assembly elections, be able to live up to the promises?
The manifesto released by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the upcoming Delhi Assembly Elections 2013 can be seen as a populist one as it offers everything on the platter, ranging from free water, electricity and healthcare at lower prices to sanitation facilities, subsidies on solar power production and an innovative decentralisation plan in the form of “Mohalla Sabhas”. The party has released separate manifestos for each of the 70 constituencies, but questions are being raised about whether these promises can be implemented.
AAP has promised to bring down the electricity expenditure of residents of Delhi by 50 per cent. To many, the promise may sound unrealistic. But the claim is based on the premise that people have been getting “inflated bills” because of malpractices and monopoly of power companies. To fix this, the party has promised to conduct regular audits of discoms and rectify the “inflated bills”, after getting them checked by independent agencies. The licences of the companies which refuse to undergo an audit will stand cancelled.
However, whether these measures can actually bring down the cost of electricity by half hasn't been established with data or evidences. When asked about this, Yogendra Yadav, member of AAP, explained that there has been considerable reduction in transmission and distribution losses after privatisation of power distribution, but tariffs have been increased manifold. "The power companies have made huge profits by fraudulent rate determination and this is proved by billing and documented evidence," he added.
The party has also assured that it will bring power companies under the ambit of RTI and will end monopoly by introducing more than one electricity provider in the market. The electricity act, amended in 2003, has this provision but it has not been implemented yet.
In its manifesto, AAP has set a target of meeting 20 per cent of Delhi’s electricity demand through solar energy in the next 10 years. For this, it has promised incentives and subsidies to providers and promoters. Individuals who install solar panels in their houses would be allowed to sell extra electricity to the grid. The states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have already adopted this practise. The experiment, if successful in Delhi, will be a big leap in the segment of renewable energy.
No more tears for water
The party has also proposed that households with water consumption of upto 700 litres a day, irrespective of being located in slums or unauthorised colonies, will be given free supply of water. AAP also plans to provide piped water to more than 500,000 people for the first time. A few analysts think that free water in large volumes may encourage wastage and corruption and the subsidy will put financial burden on the government.
AAP members, however, clarified that if the water usage exceeds 700 litres, the tax will be charged for the entire usage. For water usage above 1,000 litres, additional charges will be imposed. This will help government compensate for the money lost in subsidy. This may, however, help party win hearts of only the lower income groups.
As long-term solutions to Delhi’s water woes, it promises to focus on city-wide rainwater harvesting, revival of Delhi’s water bodies and the conservation and recycling of water.
The party has also promised to revamp the sanitation, sewerage and health services infrastructure in the city. But the manifesto does not give any hint on how the party will rope in money for boosting all the facilities –by adding burden on taxpayers or by introducing models like public-private partnership. When asked, AAP member Atishi Marlena said, “It is all about priorities. We are sure that the expenditure in building 200,000 community toilets will be less than that in a double-decker fly-over being promised by present chief minister and Congress-candidate Shiela Dikshit. Besides, an honest government will be able to save a lot of money which would otherwise have gone into corrupt hands.”
Health will not take away all wealth
The party is inclined to reduce common man’s expenses on medication by introducing generic medicines. The idea may have been inspired by the Rajasthan public health system which has already been promoting generic medicines.
While the ruling Congress boasts of CNG autos, Delhi Metro and the world’s largest fleet of CNG buses, AAP has pointed out that there is no integrated management authority for public transport in Delhi and promised establishing a Unified Transport Authority for a holistic transport policy if it comes to power.
Decentralization and no corruption on agenda
AAP, the party which credits its birth to the country’s anti-corruption movement, has promised to pass Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill within 15 days of coming to power. Another thing that sets AAP’s manifesto apart from that of other parties is the provision of Mohalla Sabhas. All the decisions related to development work, their monitoring and disbursement of payments would be done through Mohalla Sabhas, which will have representatives of citizens of a particular area. The Kejriwal-led team has also promised more powers to gram sabhas of Delhi villages. Their consent will be needed for any land acquisition and extension of Lal Dora-areas or land parcels which are part of village habitation.
However, for Mohalla Sabhas to become a reality and function smoothly, the government will have to invest in capacity building and infrastructure.
The manifesto, like the other two parties' manifestos, promises full statehood to Delhi in order to ensure full control over MCD, DDA and Delhi Police. The demand, if fulfilled, is likely to have a direct impact on financial status of the national capital which at present gets many subsidies from the Centre.
(This is an updated version of the story)