New Delhi, July 17: Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal invited questions from people across the country for his debut Q & A session, Talk to AK on Sunday. The questions were uncensored and CM Kejriwal addressed a number of accusations against him and his government. From inflated advertising budget, to hiked salaries of MLAs, the CM had an answer for each of them. The show started with a long monologue where he listed the achievements of Delhi while at the same time stressing on the alleged obstacles created by the BJP-led central government.
For a number of questions, CM Kejriwal blamed his lack of control over subjects related to land, police and law & order. He also pointed out BJP’s control over the Municipal Corporation of Delhi before which his government was powerless.
(ALSO READ: Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ has a rival, Arvind Kejriwal to launch ‘Talk to AK’ from July 17)
Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Talk to AK’ is on the same lines as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’. The Chief Minister, during his monologue, said that the question he is asked by the media are often not the same as the questions the masses want to ask. In an effort to have a direct conversation with the masses, he and his team came up with the idea of Talk to AK. Here are the ten highlights of the show;
1. Four priority issues for Delhi government: Education, Health, Water and Electricity
The Delhi government increased its education budget by 100 per cent (From Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore) while the central government decreased it by 25 per cent, the Chief Minister pointed out. The government believes that money spent on education is an investment. During the session, Kejriwal promised that the pipeline water will be available to everyone in Delhi by December 2017.
Water is a fundamental right and a certain amount of water should be free for all. So far, the Aam Aadmi Party government has given 263 colonies in Delhi access to pipeline water. Despite critics’ claim that Delhi Jal Board will go bankrupt , it showed an excess revenue of Rs 173 crores. The AAP government also decreased the rates of electricity by half after coming to power. Kejriwal even compared the electricity rates in Delhi to those Gujarat, Punjab, and Mumbai.
2. Targets central government
Kejriwal took several jibes at the BJP-led government in the centre. One of the questions posed to the Chief Minister was, why does he play the ‘victim card’ when accusing the Modi government. Due to the hindrance caused by the Centre, Delhi and its people suffered, he replied. Delhi’s legislative assembly has passed 14 bill but the Centre is yet to give its nod. This includes the Jan Lokpal bill.
3. Conveyed Farmers’ grievances at inter-state council meet
Kejriwal told his audience that he had raised the issue of farmer suicides during the inter-state council meet on Saturday. He said he made certain suggestions to the Prime Minister. These include complete loan waiver to each and every farmer, at least once, free medical care for them, enforcement of the Swamnithana Report which allows farmers to make a profit of 50 per cent on their harvest and a fair compensation to farmers.
(ALSO READ: Narendra Modi brushes off Arvind Kejriwal at Inter-State Council meet)
4. Advertising budget
Another question asked during the session was, why Delhi government spent Rs 526 crore of taxpayers’ money on advertisement and why the ads were being displayed outside Delhi. Kejriwal, in his defence said, the actual amount spent was Rs 75 crore and the reason why they were put up in other states was to invite investment from all over the country.
5. Parliamentary Secretaries
Addressing a question on the controversy created by the appointment of parliamentary secretaries he said, since the 21 MLAs did not receive any “pecuniary gain,” the post should be exempted from the Office of Profit rule. As to why they were appointed parliamentary secretaries, he said that it gave them the authority to keep a check on matter, not just in their constituency but beyond that as well.
6. Hiked Salaries
The Chief Minister debunked the controversy surrounding the ‘400 per cent hike’ in the salaries of the Delhi MLAs. He said, the salaries given to the MLAs was too low and therefore pushed them to earn money through illicit means. By increasing their salaries, the government ensured that the legislators did not have a good reason to accept bribe or indulge in illegal activities for monetary gains.
One of the questions was about the poor quality of education despite the good salaries of government teachers. Kejriwal replied saying, the principal and the teachers are being made accountable and at the same time motivated. Due to the poor working conditions, the teaching community was depressed, he said. Some teachers have been sent to foreign universities for training while action has been taken against some other, he added. The government plans to do the same in other states.
8. Sports University
Manish Sisodia said that the Delhi government is planning to build a sports university. This was in response to one of the callers who asked him about his plans for sports in Delhi. The government, he added, is building new infrastructure, increased funding to sportsperson, and organised Kabbadi competition across the city.
(ALSO READ: Delhi Budget: Education takes big chunk; CCTV to be installed in classrooms; teachers to be trained at foreign universities)
9. Odd-Even policy
“We have seen odd-even policy twice in Delhi. Are you planning to organise it again or looking for alternative solutions,” a caller asked. The Odd-Even police will be reintroduced during the winter season since air pollution is at its peak during those months, Kejirwal said. The government is expecting a positive response from the people of Delhi and is looking at several other option too.
10. Free WiFi
A user of social media asked the Chief Minister about the free WiFi scheme that was to be implemented in Delhi. The project would take two-three years. The fibre optic cable network is being laid throughout Delhi. Since the officer in-charge Rajendra Kumar has been arrested, he will have to appoint a new officer. The government is creating network hotspots, and will be operational in East Delhi by December-January, provided “it isn’t nulled-and-voided by the Lieutenant Governor”.