In an exclusive interview to Financialexpress.com, Manish Sisodia, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister, said focus on healthcare and education is part of AAP's in-principle philosophy. Sisodia also spoke vividly on issues like air pollution, traffic congestion, slums and development of Delhi's economy.
Delhi Government had announced a Rs 48,000-crore budget in in 2017. Unlike other states, where infrastructure has been the top focus of elected governments, Delhi has seen its government investing big on education and healthcare. In 2017, the Delhi government had allocated Rs 11,300 crore (around 24 per cent) for education and Rs 5,736 crore for healthcare.
In an exclusive interview to Financialexpress.com, Manish Sisodia, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister, said focus on these two areas is a part of AAP’s in-principle philosophy. Sisodia also spoke vividly on issues like air pollution, traffic congestion, slums and development of Delhi’s economy.
You allocated 24 percent of your total budget on education last year. We have seen swimming pools coming up in schools. Why so much focus on one particular sector?
It’s not about swimming pools. The biggest mistake our country has made since independence is we have not invested in education. We have invested on infrastructure, we have invested in other sectors as well, but education has been neglected. You can’t build up a nation, without the foundation of education. We are a confused society about education. Sometimes, we think the government will take care of it, then we think society will take care of it and let the private sector run it. As a result, we have a few very good schools in India, but we have lakhs of very bad schools in India. In Delhi also, on one hand, we have fantastic schools like DPS, Sanskriti, etc. May Be 100 good schools. In government sector also, there are certain good schools like Pratibha, but only 17.
There are schools where 150 students are studying in one classroom. How can we teach them? First of all, education is the foundation stone of any society we talk about. What we are doing about it is zero. So we started doing it. We doubled the budget on education from what it used to be. Since then, for last three years, we have been working on it. The quarter of total budget is dedicated to education. We are developing infrastructure under this – which includes swimming pools, world-class astroturf for football, hockey and racing stadiums. On the other hand, we have developed classrooms, better auditoriums, libraries. We are giving world-class training to our teachers. Often we say that spending on infrastructure is in investing in development. This is a very narrow definition of development. We have changed this definition. If we are investing in education, it means that we are investing in development. For the nation, we are investing in education.
What has been the effect on the ground? Has the number of students reaching government schools increased?
Certain things are objective, certain things are subjective. Objective – this year’s result was really good, some parents have shifted their children to government schools from private schools. I do not go by the number. We are teaching 26 Lakh students in Delhi. My goal is to give quality education to all these 26 Lakh students. If you can’t give quality education, number is a farce.
Watch | FE Exclusive: Manish Sisodia Speaks On Delhi’s Development, Economy And ‘Modi Care’
Your government is lauded for proposed doorstep delivery of public service. From where did this idea come?
We speak to people a lot. One common thing which comes across is that you need to have some source in all departments or you have to buy a middleman. Even if you have applied online, they (government officials) will point out flaws in your documents and make you visit two-three times. Then you will look for a middleman. We can see all these problems. What if the government itself goes to people’s doorstep. So this is a solution to a long-pending problem. Since the executive is at your doorstep, he can’t give you the excuse of incomplete documents. If he needs X document in place of Y document, he will get it there only.
Delhi saw a nightmarish pollution crisis last year. Have you planned anything special for this year?
There are two parts of Delhi’s pollution. One is NCR, other is Delhi. We can work on the solutions from Delhi. We can’t say what they (Centre) will do for the NCR. Farmers from neighbouring states, Punjab and Haryana, burn crop residue in November and December every year. For example, the air pollution is there even today (4th Feb, 2018), but not like November. Delhi also has its own pollution-making factors. Biggest of all is vehicular pollution and we are working on that. We have set targets for ourselves.
E-vehicles in public transport system is the solution. These e-vehicles will include electric cars and buses. We are in talks with service providers on how much e-vehicles can be provided in a time-bound manner. In upcoming time, you will see buses and taxis getting converted into e-taxis and e-buses in Delhi. We have to reach a stage where there is no diesel, petrol, or even CNG vehicles in Delhi.
We need to enhance public transport system as well. We are buying 4,000 more buses. Also, we are coming up with route-rationalisation. Currently, if a bus starts from Vivek Vihar (point A) to Krishna Nagar (point B) through public transport, it takes many turns. Because of the same, a person opts for personal vehicles, may be a bike. The same causes pollution. If a person can get direct buses from point A to B, he will opt for buses. If a person wants to travel from Vivek Vihar to ITO or Connaught Place, then why will he enter the inner-city? He would like to go by his car or bike. If he will get a direct bus, then he will opt for buses. That is why we are saying that routes should be rationalised.
Also, as I told you, we are coming up with electrical buses. We are in the process of buying 400 electric buses. A complete electric bus depot is being developed. Definitely, you will see the result after these measures will be implemented. When there will be less pollution in the air, it won’t stick to dust particles. Also, we are working on reducing the dust in the air.
We have introduced mechanical sweeping, but we have limitations that we can do it only on PWD roads. The sweeping system also needs to be changed.
I came across a RTI query last year, which said that you didn’t spend a single penny of Rs 787-crore collected as environment cess. Why was that money not spent?
I don’t have data about how much money was spent or not. That is a very small amount of money. We are trying to use that money, as well as more money from other sources. We need more buses and mechanical sweeping, and big funds are needed for that.
Don’t you think bringing 4,000 more buses will increase the problem of traffic congestion?
My rough analysis says that if we want to develop Delhi as a public transport city, then we need 35,000 thousand buses here, but that is a very long-run process.
But do we have roads for that (35,000 buses)?
Yes, of course, traffic is there because the bus system is not right. That is why we see more cars coming. We need to transfer the person travelling in car to buses. I went to London to study this. They have a very confident bus system. A person can see which bus he can get and in how much time in any corner of the city. We need a similar kind of system.
Heath has been the second top-focus of your government. What special are you doing for the sector?
Health and education are part of our in-principle philosophy. We think if society is healthy, it is happy. If it is unhealthy, it is tense and a tense society can’t develop. That is why we have created this three tier-system – Mohalla Clinic, poly-clinic and tertiary hospitals. There is a lot of load on our large hospitals and to lower that pressure, Mohalla Clinics was the best solution. The project has taken-off now, and within a year you will see around 1,000 Mohalla Clinics in government schools and in the mainland as well.
Also, till the time we develop the infrastructure, we have launched various schemes for Delhi citizens, through which they can get treatment from private hospitals. Those schemes are running very successfully.
Despite so much effort, the High Court has not been very kind to you. Why has the number of dengue cases increased in Delhi?
First of all, the number of Dengue cases in Delhi has reduced in comparison to previous years. We are running an aggressive campaign. You can check the records, there has been record decrease, I don’t have figures right now.
My data says that there were around 4,500 cases in Delhi last year..
You have consolidated data. I will talk to the Health Minister and send the data to you. Any patient reaching a Delhi hospital, even if he belongs to Faridabad, Noida or Gurgaon, is counted as Delhi’s patient. We can’t deny treatment to the patient from other states. So, don’t go by this data. If you want to understand the truth of medical system, you go to any government hospital and check the address of patients reaching these hospitals in the register. You will see that 60-70 per cent of the patients are not from Delhi. We will give you the right data of how many of these patients belong to Delhi.
As the Finance Minister of Delhi, what are your views on the Central scheme dubbed as ‘Modicare’?
This is copy and paste. You thought Obama was the president of United States and he launched ‘Obamacare’, so I should also launch ‘Modicare’. You should present a calculation of the money required for the project. Today, I can announce that I will bring some big scheme for Delhi’s 1.5 crore people, but does the government have funds for it. If not, then it is a ‘zumla’ (catchphrase).
Do you ever see Delhi, the national capital of India, turning into a Mumbai? What is your view for Delhi’s economic development by large?
Delhi has its own nomenclature. We can’t do ‘Mumbai-nisation of Delhi’. That’s why I feel “When will it become Mumbai” solution is not right. That is why I had problems when people said they will turn Delhi into Shanghai. Delhi is a city constituted by the people of almost every state and district of the nation. So the basic requirement was education. For example, there are people who came from Bihar and became rickshaw-pullers. We don’t want their next generation to do the same. We think if we can give education to the second generation of this population, then their second generation will be doing some new entrepreneurship work.
For that, we are running a skill development centre in Vivek Vihar. As many as 1000 students are taking admission in that institution every year and their average salary is Rs 6-8 Lakh per year. That is real development. We have not taken this from Centre.
I am coming up with 25 more centres like this. That is real development. These students will become employment seekers and employment generators at the same time.
Also, ease of doing business should be there. For e.g., there is entertainment industry, if a person will have to bribe government officials, what will he do? He will eat 10 other youths’ job. We should eradicate corruption. You have to correct ease of doing business. If the entrepreneur is troubled by things like demonetisation and GST, how will he succeed?
There are around 10 lakh slums in Delhi. Development of slums was high on AAP’s agenda. What progress have you made?
There are two-fold solutions for slum. The person living in slums is also the citizen of Delhi. The time when we were planning a Rs 2 crore flat for Delhi, we didn’t plan where the service sector for this population will live. Still, the service sector developed. Any person who owns a bungalow will hire a domestic-help. That domestic help will reside somewhere. Either you will provide them cheap flat, or they will take shelter in slums. So this has been a flaw with the planning.
As the solution, one should not remove the slums already developed. These slum areas should be institutionally developed. We are working on the institutional development of slums in Delhi. You might not know this because there is no uproar about it, but we have already allocated flats to 5 small slum sectors of Delhi under JNNURM. People living in slums in these areas are leading quality life now. We have plans for institutional development of other different sectors as well. But what till that development takes place? Till then, we have started giving sever lines, power, other basic amenities in these areas. So even if these people have to live for another 10 years in these areas, they won’t fall sick.
You have accused Centre of step-motherly behaviour with you. What are your complaints?
On one hand, Centre says Delhi is a Union Territory and it has the supreme authority of it. On the other hand, they don’t allocate funds for Deli. For the past 17 years, Delhi gets only Rs 325 crore from Central tax share and some Rs 700 crores from general allocation and they (centre) have frozen this amount. Whereas, for other states, the amount has been doubled and even tripled in some cases. So when they say that they are Delhi government.
One one hand you say that we (Centre) are the owners of Delhi, but the responsibility to develop Delhi is not ours. We will not allow schemes to pass. So this is a step-motherly treatment. That you (citizens of Delhi) keep paying taxes, your government (Delhi government) may increase taxes, but we won’t pay you any fund. At the same time, you belong to us, we won’t allow the elected governments to take the decision.
In your last budget, you didn’t increase any taxes. Why so?
I have already presented three budgets. We had peer pressure from neighbouring states to increase the tax. We have decreased the taxes from 12 percent to 5 percent on many goods. But still, in three years, our Budget has increased from Rs 32,000 crores to 48,000 crores. So why should the taxes be increased? Lower the tax rate, more is the compliance. We work on this principle only.
You are set to present your budget next month. What GDP target will you set for next year? And, do you think that you will be able to achieve the GDP target of 12.76 per cent set for the current year?
I think we will achieve it. But the next year’s target, I will announce in my Budget. I don’t think its fair to announce anything like this in interviews.