by Smt. Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister, Delhi
Mr. Chairman, Members of the National Development Council and Distinguished participants,
1. Sir, my Government endorses the general strategy outlined in the Approach Paper, in particular with reference to the prospective role of Government. Times have changed; and so must we. A paradigm shift has become inevitable. While none of us disagree that the role of the State has to be recast, few among us believe that this is a justification for State minimalism. In the new millennium, the Government must concentrate on creating a policy environment conducive to growth, establish the right structure of incentives and play the rote of a facilitator. However, the State's role goes beyond merely that. It has a vital function to discharge in the social sectors and in the provision of infrastructure. Finally and most importantly, the State must ensure that development itself is both sustainable and equitable.
2. My Government also supports the idea to set clear monitorable targets. First, a GDP growth rate of 8% is absolutely essential. I would even go as far as to say that this is the least that we must set ourselves. As already noted, development goes beyond mere growth. In my view, reducing poverty by 15 percentage point by 2012 is the single most important monitorable target: there cannot be any let up on this. No effort must be spared to ensure that this target is met. The other targets on universal primary education, literacy, infant mortality, potable drinking water, health care and population growth are ends In themselves but also serve to ensure a test-check that growth has indeed been translated into development. We endorse these targets. Lastly, targets on forest cover and cleaning of polluted rivers are essential to ensure that the development is sustainable.
3. I would like to briefly dwell on the subject of environmental degradation. Protection of the environment is important. However, care must be exercised in formulating policy and devising action to ensure that we do not inadvertently disrupt economic livelihoods. Adoption of any new technology to tackle environment problems ought to be based on a careful and comprehensive analysis with reference to the suitability and sustainability of the proposed technology in the environmental and economic setting that prevails. Blindly aping others without taking into account our societal and other circumstances is a recipe for disaster. Environmental problems in metropolitan areas and mega-cities pose very different challenges. Nowhere are these problems in clearer focus than in Delhi. Air and water pollution are self-evident. However, there is a complex interplay of economic forces, population pressure and land-use that lie behind these outcomes. Once again the general principle bears repetition : environmental problems did not emerge overnight and it is a folly to believe that they can be solved in a rush.
4. Turning now to the financing required for the Plan, the resource picture is grim, both for the Centre and at the States. A herculean effort will be required to bring about the fiscal correction necessary. Hard decisions/ sometimes painful ones, shall be necessary. Sir, you shall not find the Government of Delhi wanting in this regard: the challenge shall elicit the response. The reduction of public dissaving is one of the linchpins of this Plan: make no mistake, without it we will not meet our goals. My Government naturally supports the proposal to create a Special Fund for award of incentives to States which successfully manage their fiscal system. Another critical dimension is how to increase the efficacy of investments. We entirely agree with the Approach paper's sentiment that there must be a "reform plan instead of merely a resource plan". A slew of sectoral, policy and institutional reforms must underpin the Plan. Without these changes/ neither the growth nor the development targets will be achieved. And, if we are setting monitorable development targets/ perhaps the time has come for us to also set ourselves clear monitorable goals for institutional and policy reforms that must be implemented and the time frame within which this will be done.
5. On poverty alleviation programmes, I would like to suggest that with the unrelenting pace of urbanization, urban poverty is a problem that cannot be ignored. It ought to be addressed along with rural poverty alleviation programmes, with appropriate modifications for the urban setting. We support the approach not to provide subsidy in poverty alleviation programmes to curb corruption and wastage of funds and, in lieu of subsidy, provision of interest-free or tow interest loans along with provision of work place may be made in such programmes to really assist the rural/urban poor in the direction of providing them self-employment opportunities.
6. In social infrastructure, Delhi is better placed compared to other parts of the country. My Government is committed to further improve educational and health care facilities in the capital.
7. Sir, I now like to turn to some matters specific to Delhi. The two aspects I wish to dwell on are governance in general and financial management.
8. Our job is to provide a government that is caring and responsive. After nearly three years at the helm, some issues have become crystal clear. If the citizens of the national capital are to control their destiny, my government must be responsible for governance of all issues relating to urban planning and management and development, The existence of numerous agencies with different functions and roles at times overlapping, not all within the administrative ambit of my Government, is dysfunctional. It is this that is responsible for the lack of effective coordination in policy and action on critical fronts. In the interest of good governance, this must change.
9. An example will illustrate my point. On the one hand my Government is accountable for urban development and management. However, crucial aspects like land-use planning and development are functions that are not delegated to the government. This is clearly anomalous. It happens nowhere else in India. It is an unacceptable state of affairs. If the elected representatives are to effectively respond to the needs and aspirations of the people, this must change. For this reason alone, bodies such as the DDA must immediately be brought within the ambit of my government.
10. A second issue is about administrative reform and bringing governance closer to our people. We set up a Committee to examine the entire gamut of issues related to the territorial restructuring of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. A large unwieldy municipal body is out of sync with the times. More compact bodies would serve ends better. They would also be more responsive to people's needs. We also need to look at the laws afresh. A Mayor-in-Council is dearly the preferred mode today. These are some of the ways we are trying to engineer responsive and good governance.
11. Delhi's financial management has been good. With some degree of modesty, we can legitimately claim to have managed our financial affairs well. Admittedly, we have our problems, as do ail States. However, our financial prudence has served us welt. Our balance on current revenues is positive; our debt and debt servicing are within manageable bounds; and our resource mobilization effort and tax revenues have been buoyant. We are not resting on our laurels. On the contrary we are moving forward with reform, managerial, institutional and financial, with the objective of further improving our fiscal and financial health.
12. Delhi's population has already reached 138 lakhs. This is a decennial growth rate of 46% compared to 21% at the national level. As I pointed out in the last meeting of the NDC, our major problem is providing a high standard of civic amenities to all the citizens of Delhi, This task is rendered ever more difficult because of the rapid expansion of Delhi's citizens, largely a consequence of huge in-migration. I also pointed out at that time that the National Capital Regional Plan-2001 could not make headway because of inadequate funds with the NCR Planning Board and also a lack of willingness and commitment for implementing the Regional Plan by all concerned State Governments. I urge that the NCR Plan must be adequately funded and be implemented with greater vigour in a spirit of cooperation. This is the only way forward.
13. Sir, as I mentioned earlier, my government is moving ahead with reforms. The Delhi Government has initiated the process in the power sector. Power tariffs are set by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission. We have now embarked on the process of inviting private sector participation in the distribution system. Nevertheless, we still have many problems. Energy demand is growing rapidly: however, electricity generation by DVB and BTPS meets only 35% of total demand. Delhi is dependent on Central Power Stations/ Northern Grid for most of its energy requirements. Sir, in the last meeting of the NDC, I had pointed out that the power crisis in Delhi is compounded by the manner in which the Northern Region Grid is managed. Other States not only overdraw power beyond their allocation but have also not installed under frequency relays for load shedding and capacitors for maintaining the desired voltage profile. This compels Delhi to resort to load shedding resulting in unscheduled power cuts. I have pleaded, and do so again, to the concerned States to maintain stability of power supply with the installation of under frequency relays in their system. My government has undertaken numerous measures to improve the financial and technical efficiency of DVB. However, in spite of my request in the last meeting the Govt. of India continues to divert our entire normal Central Plan Assistance to meet the liabilities of DVB towards BTPS. I would request that only 15% of Central Assistance may be diverted to BTPS as is being done for all other States.
14. Rapid urbanization is a natural out-come of the growth of the economy, as in any other part of the world. In the past, the country has not planned well for urbanization. The consequence is there for all to see: proliferation of urban slums, the virtual break down of municipal services. Sir, a major chunk of our plan funds is invested on providing civic and social amenities to the urban poor living in JJ clusters. The peculiar feature of these JJ clusters in Delhi is that all are located on public land. The responsibility to protect the public land in Delhi for the large part reposes in the Govt. of India since land and law and order are subjects vested with the Govt. of India. However, the failure to protect public land has led to cumulative liabilities devolving on my Government in the form of increased JJ clusters. The Government of Delhi needs special financial support from the Govt. of India for implementing plan programmes meant for the poor residing in JJ clusters and timely allotment of land for rehabilitation of these clusters to alternate project sites.
15. Public transport for this mega city is one of the highest priorities in our development. We are contributing our share to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. We want to see the Metro Rail Project completed at the earliest. However, the magnitude of the demand for public transport in the city is daunting. Much greater effort is required to be made. For our part, we are planning to introduce Electronic Trolley Buses to cater to the city's transport needs and also to improve the environment. Sir, I would like to avail of this opportunity to urge that timely action be taken for providing a Regional Rail Network connecting Delhi to all DMA and NCR priority towns at the earliest. My Government has initiated this process by making a provision of Rs.200 crores in the current financial year as Delhi Government's share for this project. I would request the Minister of Urban Development and the Minister of Railways to take necessary steps to start implementing the three corridors selected under the project and also to provide the financial contribution required for the Regional Rail Network in the current year. At the same time, may I also request the Chief Ministers of U.P., Haryana and Rajasthan to come forward with their contribution for implementing the Regional Rail Network. This Network will benefit all over States, not Delhi alone.
16. Water supply is another major priority for Delhi. The Inter-State Agreement on water sharing from the river Yamuna signed in 1994 will remain on paper if the quantum of flow of water in Yamuna river is not maintained with the construction of reservoirs at Lakhwarvyasi, Kishau and Renuka. I requested the concerned State Governments at this forum in the last meeting to expedite the construction of these reservoirs. Unfortunately, no tangible progress has been made even after more than two years. We have now decided to construct a parallel channel (conduit) from Munak to Haiderpur to prevent water losses through the existing channel. May I request the Chief Minister of Haryana for his assistance in taking up this project in view of the agreement signed in March, 1992.
17. In the field of good governance, the Government of Delhi has taken an initiative. Very recently, more than 300 posts have been abolished in various Departments. The Right to Information is one of the most important Bills passed by the Delhi Legislative Assembly. It is being implemented by the Government to bring greater transparency in administration. All public dealing departments/agencies have prepared Citizens' Charters and these are made available to the public. We have introduced the "Bhagidari" concept to motivate citizens to participate as stakeholders in governance. The public response has been tremendous. My Government stands committed to make a success of this endeavour to engender great public participation in governance.
18. In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Govt. of Delhi has prepared a 20-year perspective titled "Delhi Urban Environment and Infrastructure Improvement Project" with financial assistance from the World Bank. This was completed in February, 2001 and highlighted the status of environment and civic infrastructure in Delhi. It made a number of recommendations for the planned development of the city- keeping in view a projected population of 22 million by 2021. The Delhi Government has approved the project report and has requested the Union Ministries for timely action on recommendations made in the report. My Government stands ready to make all possible efforts to implement the recommendations of the project and surely hopes that the concerned Ministries of the Central Government will also cooperate in making the planned development of the city a success.
19, Sir, while Delhi is treated as a non-special category State in the matter of financing of Five Year/Annual Plans, Delhi is being deprived of the benefits of the Finance Commission's recommendations. I had raised this matter in the last meeting of the NDC and requested you to include Delhi under the Terms of Reference of 11th Finance Commission. Unfortunately, this was not done. This is a major setback. According to the present formula of devolution of 29.5% share in Central taxes to all the States recommended by the Eleventh Finance Commission, the States are getting an enhanced share in Central Taxes while Delhi Government's allocation has been reduced to Rs.325 crore in 2001-02 from Rs. 330 crore released in the previous year. My Government is also not getting other benefits recommended by the Commission. The Eleventh Finance Commission has recommended Rs. 400 crore per annum for Urban Local Bodies in the States. Though according to the provision of Articles 243-I and 243-Y of the Constitution, the recommendations of the first Delhi Finance Commission, are being implemented, but the local Bodies of Delhi are deprived of the benefits for want of recommendations of the 11th Finance Commission. Delhi Government has been incurring expenditure on relief of various natural calamities, like flood, fire, drought etc. every year but no calamity relief grant is being made available to Delhi. Delhi is also being deprived of the facilities of grants for upgradation of standards of administration and special problems as recommended by the Commission for the States. The Government of India should, therefore, provide the benefits of 11th Finance Commission to Delhi and also include Delhi in the terms of reference of future Central Finance Commissions.
20. Sir, I would like to invite your kind attention to some of the major financial issues which severely and directly affect the Plan resources of Delhi Government. The Government of India has been providing grants in lieu of share in central taxes to Delhi after deducting 10% expenditure on Delhi Police from its entitlement, since 1997-98. In the meeting taken by the Union Home Minister on 18.6.1998, it was agreed in principle not to deduct any expenditure incurred on Delhi Police from the share in central taxes to Delhi. However, this practice is still being continued and Delhi's deducted share in Central taxes has not yet been restored despite Delhi Government's repeated request to this effect. Another issue that I would like to bring to your kind notice is regarding the non-release of Rs.51 crore of Delhi's share under Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme-1997 (VDIS-1997). While the share of all States under this scheme was released in 1997-98, our share has not been provided to us so far.