All over, police is under the state government...Personally, I wouldnt want to touch this police force

Written by Rakesh Sinha | Updated: Feb 17 2013, 06:49am hrs
In this Idea Exchange, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit speaks about lessons learnt after the gang rape and why the state government should have control over the police. This session was moderated by Rakesh Sinha of The Indian Express

Rakesh Sinha: Tell us about your early years in Delhiyou went to school here and college

Delhi went through very traumatic experiencesPartition, the deaths of big leaders. Mahatma Gandhi was killed near where I used to live in Delhi. We heard the three shots that killed him and nobody knew what had happened. Delhi had a very small population. There were broad roads and more open spacesyou could count the cars in the city. The nicest part of Delhi is that you have never seen all of it. The culture keeps changing here, from a Dilliwala culture to a Punjabi culture and now to an almost Bihari culture. Its a very vibrant city. Earlier, it belonged to nobody and nobody wanted to belong to it. But now it belongs to everybody and everyone wants to come here. As a city, its not easy to develop, though: Gurgaon and Noida have got land but Delhi does not have that kind of land, so expansion is restricted. From a small-scale industry and crafts city, Delhi has become a knowledge city, a service city.

Rakesh Sinha: Were you surprised by the way Delhi reacted to the gang rape

No, I wasnt surprised by the public outrage. What did surprise me was the act itself. I didnt expect a civilised city to behave like that. But the outrage was very natural, very emotional. I think we have learnt many lessons from it. Hopefully, Delhi will become a safer city.

Maneesh Chhibber: You have constantly been asking the central government for control over Delhi police. Why do you believe the police should be under you

There have been studies on Delhis administrative set-up and they have said that the police should be under the state governments control. I dont think any state government can have the wherewithal to take on the security needs of the VVIPS and diplomats who live in Delhi. But where normal policing in Delhi is concerned, it should be with the state government. At the time of the gang rape, I raised certain issues: how was it that a policeman can reach a persons house in five minutes when a window is broken but took so long to reach this victim How did cars have their windows blackened and have curtains What about security number plates Theres a lot of hotch-potch and confusion. Whenever something happens concerning the police, the people come to us. They say, we elected you. Also, I think the training of the police for the common man has to be very different from the training for those who look after VVIP security. Everybody is scared of going to the thana. Everybody is scared of picking up persons hurt on the roadside and taking them to the hospital because they are detained for six to eight hours.

Ravi Bajpai: Have you suggested any changes in policing to the Home Ministry

Yes, one is police training. I feel that a policeman should be perceived as a friend. Also, the equipment being used is not always appropriate. For instance, how can PCR vans patrol narrow lanes You need motorcycles there. There is no point having motorcycles and PCR vans in Lutyens Delhi and not patrolling the outer areas where these incidents happen.

Ritu Sarin: You have been one of the longest-serving chief ministers. What was your most stressful periodpreparations for the Commonweatlh Games, the aftermath of the gang rape or the continuous bickering in the partyand have you got bogged down by such things

Delhi is a political hot seat where people look at you with a hawks eye. I dont think I got bogged down by any particular political incident. The Commonwealth Games were terrifying as we thought we would not get it done on time but we did it. There hasnt been a time when we are not facing a challenge. But this rape incident was really the worst moment I have faced.

Prawesh Lama: Senior Delhi police officers fear that once the police is controlled by the Delhi government there will be political interference at the local level.

Its something you are assuming. All over the country, the police is under the state government. Also, we have thana committees headed by local MLAs. They are supposed to have a monthly meeting. The thana committee never functions because who cares for that MLA And it is the MLA or the councillor who really gets to know the ground realitygood or bad.

Ananya Bhardwaj: The Delhi government asked for traffic to be under its control. Why

We have asked for traffic plus law and orderthose that concern the ordinary citizen. Ministers and diplomats will not go to thanas but the ordinary citizen will. Traffic is a concern to the citizens. Considering the kind of roads we have in Delhi, the number of flyovers and the width of the roads that you wont find anywhere else, why do you still have so much traffic at peak hours We have recommended, many times, that at peak time5 pm to 8 pmthe roads should be made one-way. It has been done all over the world to smoothen traffic. They havent done it. But we dont have any rights in such matters. If you ask me, personally, I wouldnt want to touch this police force.

Vandita Mishra: You said that character of the Delhi is changing, that earlier it was more Punjabi and now its more Bihari. Your earlier comments on migrants in the city have been controversial. What do you think about the change and why are people taking ownership of city now

The earlier comment was twisted. I said that all the construction in Delhi has been done by Biharis and UPites and that it has been benefiting Delhi. Now, when I say the character of Delhi has changed, during Partition, a large number of people came from Punjab and the city got a Punjabi culture. This is the capital city and I keep saying that you must build more cities like Delhi with opportunities. This is everybodys capital. How can anybody stop anybody

Swaraj Thapa: Your statements immediately after the gang rape, that Delhi is unsafe for women, gave the impression that you were acting not as Delhis CM but as an Opposition leader. Do you think that was a political embarrassment for the Congress

I thought I was saying what I felt very deeply. I have never seen such an incident in my lifeit was horrendous. It happened in the middle of Delhi so you cant even say it was on a lonely stretch. I did feel anguished. I went to Jantar Mantar. Everybody was feeling miserable about it and I am human. Whether it is politics or not, when you feel something deeply, it is alright to let it come out.

Swaraj Thapa: You have been CM now for 14 years. What is your view on a retirement age for politicians

Political people are different from other people in that you have to go back to the people. If the people elect you, thats fine. You can be 50 years old or 30 years old. Then the party also makes a decision. But if you all decide that there should be an age limit for politicians, so be it.

Apurva: In your 14 years, you have achieved quite a lot. If you are elected again, what remains to be done

There is a lot to be done in terms of development. You have to create opportunities to make living comfortable. I dont think someone can say you have finished the job after 15 years. Water is an issue and so is a better transport systemthese two are the big things we need to look into. Pollution is worrying me, it is becoming bad again. We need to look at it in a new way. Also, the conservation of all that Delhi has got. We used to consume 1,900 MW of energy in 2001-2, today we are consuming 6,000 MW. So will we continue to increase consumption or should we not stop Conservation of all resources, human and natural, should be done. I also feel Delhi should become a city now, it cannot have rural areas.

Ruhi Bhasin: Safety and security on public transport are major issues after the gang rape but besides installing GPS and having home guards on board, what is the Delhi government doing to improve public transport

We are training our conductors and drivers to be more responsive. We have a lot of programmes with women NGO groups. We started the 181 helpline. Thanks to this, the police have become a little more responsive and subtle in their behaviour.

Arjun Rai Gupta (Delhi Public School, Mathura Road): While there has been a tremendous boost to transport systems in the city, the general public does not know how to use them. What is the governments view on that

This is a city on the move. We need to follow a certain discipline, respect the pedestrians right as much as you do of the cylclist, the metro traveller, etc. This culture needs to be developed in the city, which has not yet developed.

Kamla Kelkar: On pollution, what took the government so long for the second generation action plan to be implemented

Delhi is the only city in the world which has the largest public transport that runs on gas. And remember the geographical positioning of the city. It does not have a climate of its own. If it is cold somewhere in the mountains, it comes down here, if it is dusty in Rajasthan, it gets dusty and stormy here. What we really have to do is cut down on private transport. But that will take sometime, its a mindset. Even so, we have 70 lakh people travelling on buses and the metro every day.

Kamla Kelkar: What is the status of the plastic bag ban

That has not been as successful as we thought it should have been because its implementation by our own department has been slow and a lot of plastic bags are produced in the peripheries of Delhi. But they are far less than what they were two to five years ago. There is a lot more usage of recycled paper, cloth bags, jute bags. Its not enough and remains a a challenge.

Pragya Kaushika: You have regularised unauthorsied colonies, but theres the issue of structural safety of the buildings. You have allowed the sale and purchase of these buildings without layout approvals. You have asked for a development charge which comes to lakhspeople are unwilling to pay it.

If they are unwilling to pay that charge and unwilling to see that safety is taken care of, we will have safety issues. MCD, which is responsible for these buildings, are not doing their job.

Geeta Gupta: Theres some confusion between UID and NPR. NPR is mandated by the government while we are linking UID/Aadhaar to several schemes which makes it all the more confusing as Aadhaar is still not mandated by the Government of India.

Weve got most of the population in Delhi on Aadhaar and all the facilities we are giving people are based on Aadhaar. We will see what happens when NPR comes in. Aadhaar will eventually be your identity. Banks also have to be related to Aadhaar. We have gone ahead with a lot of our schemespension, health, Annashree Yojana on the basis of Aadhaar.

Geeta Gupta: Does that mean NPR is not recognised by the Delhi government

We are yet to understand what it is all about. We were told about Aadhaar and we did it. Frankly, I dont want to confuse the people.

Geeta Gupta: This is a crucial time to resolve the inter-state water dispute as we have Congress governments both at the Centre and at the state level. What is going on

We have paid the Haryana government to build a canal to bring water especially to Delhi because they said that the current canal was not sufficient to carry water to Delhi. They got the land and the canal was built, it was done when Chautala was chief minister but we are not getting water as Haryana needs it for agriculture.

Geeta Gupta: Haryana has always needed water for agriculture but your counterpart there says that Delhi has been overdrawing water.

Half of Haryana lives here. We will continue asking for water. The courts have helped us and we keep going back and forthwe are not going to give up.

Maneesh Chhibber: Do you think Afzal Gurus family should be allowed to take his body home

I dont know, that could cause a different kind of embarrassment. But the home ministry has said that it will allow them to go where the tomb is placed. There have been some differences on what happened and what should not have happened. But he has been tried for murder and also for anti-national activity. If there have been some slips, there can be different opinions on it, but I think as far as the law is concerned, they have done what has been lawful.

Shailaja Bajpai: When you went to Jantar Mantar to pay your condolences for the gang rape victim, you were jeered and jostled a great deal. How did that feel In hindsight, do you feel that you should have been there amongst the protesters much earlier

I took the decision to go there on my own, fully aware of the fact that Arvind Kejriwals people would be there and that they would shout and scream, I took that risk because as I said, if you had emotions about it, I also happen to be a human being. They did boo me but it didnt matter to me, I did what I went to do. I lit a candle and placed it by a neem tree. I am not going to evaluate that. You can call it right or wrong, it doesnt bother me.

Praveen Raman (EXIMS): Time and again, the Supreme Court has directed the state government on the unhygienic condition of the Yamuna but nothing has been done about it.

The Yamuna is a very complex problem. Coming down from the Himalayas right up till here, it gets very, very dirty. It has people living around it. We have taken steps: three interceptors are being made to treat the water before it reaches the river. These interceptors should be ready by next year and that, hopefully, will help the river. But I am yet to come across a solution which is total.

Pragya Kaushika: After defeating the BJP three times, you are now facing a strong BJP. Are you confident of another win

The opposition is never weak.

Transcribed by Pragya Kaushika and Ruhi Bhasin