New Delhi :  Slashed power bills, a daily supply of 700 litres of water to every household and regularising unauthorised colonies were arguably the three poll promises by the Aam Adami Party that caught the people’s imagination and helped it reach a position from where it, somewhat unexpectedly, stands to form the government in Delhi.

Fulfilling these promises — which affect the average citizen of Delhi the most — is certainly not going to be a cakewalk for the year-old AAP. This litmus test will measure the gap between promise and performance.

“Inflated” power bills was one issue on which the upstart party immediately managed to strike a chord with the people and promised a 50 percent reduction in their monthly electricity bills, since power tariffs had gone up significantly in the last two years and were burning a hole in domestic budgets.

PROMISE? PROMISE.

  • Lokpal bill will within 15 days  of coming to power.
  • ‘Mohalla Sabhas’ to decide what they want for their areas — parks, street lights, dispensaries etc,
  • Payment only if Mohalla Sabha is satisfied with work done.
  • Electricity tariff to be slashed by half
  • Two lakh community and public toilets will be built.
  • Families which limit daily water consumption to 700 litres would not be billed
  • Delhi Police, DDA and civic bodies will be brought under the control of the state government.

Former Delhi principal secretary (power) Shakti Sinha finds the AAP pledge “unsustainable.”  “It is Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission which determines tariffs. The Delhi government can only issue directions. The only way it can reduce power bills is by giving subsidy to the people,” Sinha said.

 He said that subsidising power bills across the board will cost a whopping Rs 5,000 crore to the Delhi government exchequer.  “Delhi has a development budget of Rs 15,000 crore and spending Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000 crore on power subsidy would be too much,” Sinha reasoned.

Anil Razdan, former secretary in the union power ministry, also wondered how AAP would keep its poll promises of 50 percent reduction in power bills for the average consumer. He said he would like to see the AAP government’s “concrete plan of action” on this issue and wondered if only “arm twisting” of power distribution companies can help AAP achieve its target.  In the run up to the just concluded Delhi polls, the AAP had gone hammer and tongs at the Congress-led Delhi government, accusing it of being in collusion with power distribution companies.

Water was another poll plank which the AAP tried to cash in on against the Congress. According to Census 2011, about a quarter of Delhi’s 18 million population does not get treated piped water.  The party has promised to provide 700 litres of water daily to every household.

 Himanshu Thakkar, an expert on water issues, finds the pledge “feasible” if leakage is plugged. “Delhi Jal Board claims to be supplying 200 litres of water (to every household). Raising it to 700 litres would need better infrastructure. Leakage would have to be stopped,” said Thakkar who is coordinator of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

Delhi needs around 1,100 million gallons of water a day. Officially, the supply is falling short by 50 million gallons but some say the shortage is much more.

Regularising unauthorised colonies, which allegedly mushroomed under the patronage of politicians, will be another daunting task for the AAP. “It all depends on political will. It will be a challenge for them. There are so many authorities in Delhi to seek permission for approval,” town planner and housing expert Prem Singh said.

 The inhabitants of these unauthorized colonies, which were once the stronghold of the Congress, turned the tables against the party which had promised to regularise over 1,600 of them — a plan which still hangs fire.

Gaurav Sharma

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