Delhi: Legislative Assembly
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Issues raised in the assembly
MAXIMUM COMPLAINTS RELATE TO WATER SUPPLY, FINDS NGO
A white paper on civic issues, including pollution, sewage, water supply and garbage, has highlighted that a large number of the capital’s woes are a result of multiplicity of authorities. The report by NGO Praja Foundation comes a year after the keenly-fought elections of the three municipal corporations.
After analysing data of complaints, the report has concluded that residents of Shahdara (south) face the maximum trouble due to the sewerage network, while Rohini registered the maximum number of stray animal-related problems.
West zone under south corporation topped on complaints regarding garbage not being collected, Karol Bagh faces maximum storm water drainage problems. Civil Lines zone under north corporation is plagued with unauthorised construction. Rohini and west zones figure five times in the list of top zones facing civic problems.
Civil Lines zone saw the highest number (51,553) of complaints in 2017. The overall complaints rose by 9% over three years from 3,54,788 in 2015 to 3,88,484 in 2017.
Among the major civic facilities under Delhi government, water supply registered the maximum number of complaints (1,65,735) in 2017. Under the corporations, nuisance due to stray dogs, monkeys, etc registered the most number of complaints (22,574).
The NGO collected the data through Right to Information. Curiously, in response to an RTI filed to procure the number of complaints registered, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) stated, “Due to technical problem in Complaint Redressal Mechanism of call centre application, no information is available from October 2017-December 2017.”
“This is not the kind of response one would expect to a RTI application seeking basic information such as the number of complaints registered with a state-run body. The carelessness in handling citizens’ issues is disheartening,” said Nitai Mehta, founder and managing trustee of Praja Foundation.
The report also stated that 716 issues (9%) raised by councillors in ward committee meetings from April to December 2017 were “an expression of frustration towards the working of the administration”.
“Such data indicates why elected representatives must constantly pay heed to citizens’ voices. On several points, our data suggests consistent apathy on the part of elected representatives,” said Milind Mhaske, director at the NGO.
As complaints do not get resolved due to multiplicity of authorities, the report recommends creation of a centralised grievance redressal mechanism. It also suggests greater communication and coordination between municipal, state and central governments.
The white paper analysis of Delhi Jal Board by NGO Praja Foundation has found that while the frequency of complaints related to water and sanitation has increased during last year, the elected representatives are raising the matter to a lesser extent.
“Complaints related to sewage increased by 14% from 2015 to 2017. However, in the same period, the issues raised by elected representatives on the same topic dropped to half,” the report infers. Water supply too remains the biggest headache for residents as 43% of the overall complaints in 2017 were related to water supply.
DJB officials said the increase in sewage-related complaints is because the procurement of the 200 machines for sewage cleaning is not yet complete.
Budget session: longest since 1995
The ongoing budget session of Delhi assembly has been the longest in 23 years. From March 16 when it began until Monday, it has had 15 sittings.
Originally scheduled to end on March 28, the session so far has had four extensions, the latest being on Monday. The 16th sitting will happen on Tuesday.
The previous highs were under BJP in 1994, when there were 21 sittings, and in 1995 when there were 18 sittings. In 1995, Madan Lal Khurana was the CM and the House met under the excitement of the formation of the first legislative assembly of Delhi.
There was barely any excitement among AAP MLAs when this session began as 19 of their most outspoken MLAs had been barred after their disqualification; only minister Kailash Gahlot was given immunity from this. The four opposition MLAs were greatly emboldened by this. This was reflected when they objected to the presence of Gahlot when while the LG was delivering his address.
But four days later, AAP got a shot in its arm when the Delhi high court restored these MLAs. Half of them attended the session hours after becoming MLAs again. The House saw the established practice of the first day of the budget session ending after the address of the LG being broken as important matters were taken up for discussion immediately after it. Though they flagged several key issues plaguing the people of their constituencies, including the sealing drive, much of the energy of the AAP MLAs was spent on attacking LG Anil Baijal who they claimed was “obstructing the work of the elected government”.
As the government claimed many of the MLAs’ questions were not answered by different departments, the bureaucracy and the LG came under heavy attack with the speaker pointing out that the “LG has advised him not to take questions of reserved subjects like police, land and services”. The speaker forwarded several matters that were not answered. After MLAs claimed that the officers don’t receive their calls or respond to SMSs, to tame the officers the House formed a protocol committee to examine violations by officers.
Though he attended several sittings, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal drew opposition flak for not giving enough time to the House. “Each member got multiple chances to raise issues of their constituencies. The saddest part was the officers were instructed not to give answers to questions related to police, land and services, which has never happened in the history of the assembly,” said AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj.
…but 36 queries went unanswered
A total of 36 questions related to corruption, foreign tours of officers and ministers, and other issues raised by the MLAs in the recently concluded budget session of the Delhi assembly were not answered by various departments. This prompted speaker Ram Niwas Goel to call it “murder of democracy”.
There were no answers because these pertained to reserved subjects like public order, police, land and services. When the assembly was in session, a communication from the LG office to the speaker advised that he should not admit questions related to reserved subjects.
Goel on Thursday claimed that the LG has not replied to his letter on March 27 seeking details of the communication related to reserved subjects. “It is highly condemnable that the LG did not find it necessary to reply to the letter from a constitutional functionary,” said Goel, adding that the LG is “drunk on power”.
These questions have been referred to the question and reference committee and privilege committee of the assembly.
The LG’s letter to the speaker was sent while the House was in session and sparked protests by the legislators, with the speaker describing the development unprecedented in the assembly’s history. Goel along with AAP MLAs wore black bands in protest. It marked the highest point in the tussle between the bureaucracy and the elected government, which kept reverberating throughout the budget session. AAP MLAs claimed that questions related to reserved subjects had been provided to the assembly in the past and this refusal is recent. “The answers were not provided because the answers could have exposed several bureaucrats. It is an attempt to protect them,” said an AAP MLA.
“Why cannot the MLAs ask questions related to police and DDA that concern the interests of the people who have voted for them? We will take a legal opinion about it,” Goel said.
In the session, MLAs deliberated on various subjects for around 58 hours and got answers to 207 questions. It began on March16 and was originally scheduled to end on March 28 after nine sittings, but it saw four extensions.
In the longest session in 23 years, 69 starred and 138 supplementary questions were asked and answered in the House. Nine resolutions were passed in the House on seeking amendments to existing laws to award death penalty to those convicted of raping minors and to make stalking a non-bailable offence among others.