Najeeb Jung, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi which is now under President’s rule, has dealt with three political dispensations in the past seven months — UPA-2 that appointed him, the AAP state government, and now the BJP-led government at the Centre. Edited excerpts from a conversation at Raj Niwas.
Delhi is now the second most populous city, after Tokyo. Should its ability to attract migrants flatter those who run the city, or is it a cause for worry ?
The growing pace of the population causes concern. The government must provide for those who come here to see their dreams fulfilled. And of course we need more urbanisation. That is why this government has announced the need for 100 smart cities. Like in Europe, people can come to cities to work but then go back to their lives and enjoy the benefits that living away from a city has to offer, like good, clean air and water.
You were appointed by UPA-2, you were LG when AAP formed the government, and now NDA is in power. What has been your biggest political challenge?
I was never persuaded by UPA-2, AAP or any other government to be motivated politically. The Constitution is our Bible and it is kept on my table. There has been no political challenge, but yes, many administrative challenges. After President’s rule, our role expanded… Cleaning up of hospitals is on in a big way, and I have sent out secretary-level officers to help improve things. We want to make JP Hospital and Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital model hospitals… The cleaning up of nullahs and storm drains started early. So do roads fill up? Yes, but not as much as before. Actually citizens have concreted the city in a brutal fashion, blocking inlets and nullahs.
This is a sociological issue, how to get citizens to help change things. In nursery admissions, we have tried to ensure more equitable systems through lottery and the poorest of the poor have got admission. My own private secretary could not manage admission, but two clerks in Jamia got their children through in Modern School, Barakhamba Road, because of the lottery. Police sensitisation is going on, and as we speak, 3,000 women constables are being recruited.
Rapes may not have stopped but we have stepped up the process of taking action… We get on an average about 25,000 calls to the PCR daily on various issues, and about 7,000 of them are responded to and acted upon. Even on Shab-e-Baraat this year, we clamped down and there was no badtamizee. All social and religious occasions can be enjoyed but within the confines of the law. With DDA, the process of conversions from leasehold to freehold is computerised. The focus has been to remain sensitive to the poor and on fair-price shops and making ample amounts of onions and potatoes available at modest prices. I have acted on helping clean up schools, and school toilets for girls especially. I want to put more resources into keeping the Yamuna clean, which is a holy river as far as I am concerned. I was born in Delhi and have a special connection with our river.
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The Congress and the BJP in Delhi say it is up to you to call for polls.
I cannot comment on elections. But people come to me in groups from time to time to suggest ways of forming a government in this assembly itself and it would be only fair to give them a chance. There have been two elections in the past six months and another election would stop the normal administration from functioning and impose a model code of conduct. Elections are also an expensive process. The Constitution is the guide on this. Elections would be an option only the moment I am convinced that there is no possibility of any government.
As an energy expert, would you say power prices are too high, and should public utilities like power and water be privatised?
I cannot answer questions on pricing of power as DERC is in the process of fixing a fair price. As far as public vs private is concerned, why do we have to choose, why can’t we have a hybrid ? There are several possibilities and we as a country are in the process of finding an appropriate solution.
Can Delhi be a full state?
It won’t be fair to comment of the merits of full statehood. We function here under the overall decision-making of the government of India. Many capital cities are full states and many like Washington are not.
Just after the Narendra Modi government was elected, you are said to have talked of a ‘Gujarat model’ for Delhi.
We had heard the Sabarmati front had been developed very well and we did send out a team to see that. There are some good points there but the Yamuna has its own specifics and peculiarities, which would need a Yamuna model. Gujarat has had a lot of success with solar power in Gandhinagar; our team has just returned with a report and I am yet to take a look at that. The Gujarat police, especially in Surat, have done a ‘PPP’, a joint police-and-public trust with a focus on CCTVs, very useful for the Diamond Bazaar, where the theft of even small packets can mean a lot of losses. We will try and implement that in small focused areas, for example Dariba Kalan, Greater Kailash Market or an exclusive residential area. Delhi has 3,000 cameras in place, and we have requested the government for 7,000 more.
The AAP-led government had announced an SIT for the killing of Sikhs in 1984, but people from Jamia took umbrage that no inquiry was ordered over the Batla House encounter. Your views?
I don’t immediately see an equivalence and have not actually given a thought to it. On the Batla encounter, the government of the day took a view of its being a law and order issue and handled it accordingly.
A senior minister recently said all governors (and LGs, by implication) are political appointees and should quit when the government changes. Have you been told anything, any hints?
I have not been nudged, nor got a phone call or anything. I do not see myself as a political appointee and have no problem with the change in government. I have not been pushed by anyone, so I continue to function as I did when I joined.