Learning beyond the four walls
Out of class learning is expected to be a key part of the Delhi government’s education push in the coming year.
In Delhi government schools, which largely cater to children from economically disadvantaged families, ensuring attendance and establishing a classroom connect with students has been a struggle.
The coming year will see the flagship ‘Happiness Curriculum’ project completing one year, and implementation of the new ‘Entrepreneurship Curriculum’ for students in classes IX to XII.
Through storytelling, ‘mindfulness’ classes and interactive activities, ‘happiness classes’ for students of nursery to Class VIII have tried to help students “get in touch with their emotions”. The objective of the ‘entrepreneurship classes’, an official said, will be to develop an “entrepreneurial mindset” in older children to help them re-orient their goals — from simply seeking jobs towards innovation.
Shailendra Sharma, principal advisor to the Delhi government, said these curricular interventions are laying the ground for changing the education discourse in classrooms. “The whole point of happiness classes is to reorient relationships between teachers, students and parents. Students are getting the opportunity to reflect on their thoughts and express themselves without fear of judgement, while teachers can experience their relationship with students beyond just teaching. This is setting the ground for the larger goal of education beyond knowledge transmission.”
On the ‘entrepreneurship curriculum’, he said, “Hopefully, this will also help take the discourse to the next level, in terms of what students feel like they’re ready for after stepping out of school and what roles they see for themselves in the public arena.”
Education, many believe, is also tied closely to AAP’s political fortunes. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has often spoken about education reforms in Delhi during his rallies outside the state; AAP leader Atishi, best known for her work in the field of education, has been made a Lok Sabha candidate; and AAP has frequently harnessed the ‘happiness curriculum’ for international recognition — most recently during an education conference in Austria in December.
Even though heads of schools have given positive feedback on happiness classes in review meetings — such as a greater sense of belonging and an increase in attendance — some have expressed concern that the flurry of new interventions take away time, effort and focus from the core need to deliver examination results.
This year, several schools delivered zero pass percentages in the internal examinations. The ability to match these interventions with results will be tested in 2019, particularly with children in board examination classes being brought under their ambit.
Move to check overpricing by hospitals
The Delhi government is set to roll out guidelines to regulate private hospitals and nursing homes. Once implemented, the policy is expected to be a landmark decision for Delhi residents who have often complained of overpricing by various private hospitals.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain told The Indian Express that the government will implement the guidelines by early 2019. The advisory was framed after the AAP government formed a nine-member committee, headed by the then Director-General of Health Services Kirti Bhushan, to monitor functioning of private hospitals.
The aim is to ensure rates of surgery packages are “transparent, without hidden charges”, and hospitals disclose whether they cover any complications during the procedure.
The draft advisory states that private hospitals can charge patients for medicines at the MRP mentioned in the National List of Essential Medicines, 2015, as their prices have already been capped. The policy also prohibits private hospitals and nursing homes from refusing to hand over bodies over pending bills.
“The department is finalising work on the committee report and will release it soon. The guidelines will change the entire scenario of the medical profession,” said a senior health department official.
In 2019, Delhi will also witness implementation of the Centre’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme, which has run into some turbulence in the capital over the name of the scheme. At the moment, both sides are in a deadlock.
It has so far been implemented in four government hospitals — All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ram Manohar Lohia, Safdarjung Hospital and Lady Hardinge Medical College — as well as a few private hospitals. The National Health Agency has asked private hospitals in the capital to join the insurance scheme, and 2019 will tell how many follow through.
AAP and Cong: Will they, won’t they?
Wild swings in vote shares of the three big political players, AAP, BJP and Congress, which have come to characterise the city’s politics since 2014, will largely determine the churning that lies ahead.
For the ruling AAP, doing well in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls is imperative for its ambition to go national. It has received jolts in the recent past owing to successive drubbings in state assembly polls, as seen recently in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
The AAP’s political fortunes appear to be tied closely with that of the Congress, with the two parties competing for acceptance among the same sections — from residents of unauthorised colonies to Purvanchalis — while the BJP continues to draw support from traders and the upper-middle class.
This is where coalition talks come in: Despite their apparent mutual dislike, there has been no outright rejection from the AAP and the Congress that they are in talks to arrive at an “understanding” so that the BJP does not romp home once again by taking advantage of the possible vote cutting.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has so far shied away from giving a straight answer — whenever asked by reporters, he has maintained: “We will let you know.” He also insists that the AAP will do “all that is necessary” to keep the BJP out of power.
Behind the ambiguous statements are hard facts: In 2015, the AAP won with a 54.3% vote share due to the massive dip in the Congress’s vote share, which was down to 9.8%. However, in last year’s municipal polls, Congress showed signs of revival as it increased its share to 21.09%, while AAP’s came down to 26.23%.
On the other hand, the BJP’s vote share has remained more or less constant — 33.07% in the 2015 Assembly polls and 36.23% in the 2017 MCD polls. Only in 2014 had the BJP notched up an impressive share of 44.81%, on the back of a country-wide Modi wave that swept the party to power.
While back-channel talks may or may not yield results, the AAP has been critical of the Congress in public. At rally after rally, Kejriwal tried to drive home the point that voting for the Congress will end up strengthening the BJP. Addressing one such rally in August, he had said that the Delhi Congress has been reduced to a “vote cutter for the AAP”.
Leaders in the AAP also point to the fact that Delhi will go to Assembly polls in less than a year after the Lok Sabha elections, and any coalition with the Congress in 2019 may end up harming AAP’s prospects in 2020.
“What happens in the Lok Sabha elections will also have a bearing on the Assembly polls. Some leaders in AAP are looking at an alliance because arithmetic says both parties together will be able to keep the BJP out of power. But the implications have to be seen in context of the Assembly polls. Will AAP want to align with the very party whose vote bank shifted to it en masse in 2015?” said a former party leader.
The Delhi Congress, still smarting from the 2015 drubbing, currently under the leadership of Ajay Maken, disapproves of all coalition talks. It has maintained that the AAP is a “B-team” of the BJP and that the Kejriwal-led party is “desperate to stitch an alliance for its own survival”.
Eight years on, 1,500 buses may roll out
For a city that has been waiting for new buses to join its fleet since 2011, the coming year is going to be a crucial one. At least 500 standard-floor buses, with hydraulic lifts to make them accessible to the differently abled, have already got a go-ahead from courts.
Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said 1,000 electric buses will also join the close to 6,000 buses on Delhi roads by June. “The Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System is preparing a feasibility report, after which tenders will be floated,” he said.
If all goes according to plan, Delhi will become the first Indian city to have such a large electric bus fleet. This will also be key to Delhi’s fight against pollution — according to recent studies by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and TERI, vehicular pollution contributes to over 35% of particulate matter in the city.
With construction of Metro Phase IV getting the green signal, the other gap that remains is providing last-mile connectivity.
Recently, the Delhi Metro tied up with private app-based cab aggregators to fill this gap. However, in an ever-expanding city, buses and a regulated e-rickshaw service are being seen as the only way to make sure people are incentivised to leave their personal vehicles at home and switch to greener modes of travel.
1.4 lakh cameras on streets, 1 lakh in schools
Education and health will be the focus of the Public Works Department (PWD) in 2019. According to a senior PWD official, “by the end of 2019, the aim is to construct 12,000 additional classrooms in Delhi government schools”.
The department will also begin work on the hotly debated plan to install CCTV cameras inside schools. “Over 1 lakh cameras will be put inside 726 schools. The project cost has been estimated at Rs 600 crore so far,” said Sanjeev Rastogi, PWD PRO.
Cameras are also supposed to be installed in public places, such as markets, across the capital. “The plan is to install 1.4 lakh cameras across the city; the allocated budget is Rs 350 crore,” Rastogi said.
Also on the agenda is remodelling seven of the 17 government hospitals, and converting 94 dispensaries into polyclinics.
On the traffic front, PWD aims to clear congestion at Shastri Park and Seelampur by building a flyover. “It’s a two-year project to help manage traffic from Shahdara to Kashmere Gate,” said Rastogi.
Staring at a financial crisis of Rs 3,000 crore, the North and East civic bodies have not undertaken any big projects for 2019, and will instead focus on completing pending projects.
The North Corporation wants to finish multi-level parking projects at Rani Bagh, Shiva Market, Shastri Park, Idgah and Gandhi Maidan to create parking space for 5,000 vehicles.
The East MCD is focusing on Krishna Nagar, Preet Vihar, Geeta Colony, Babarpur and Anand Nagri; and the South MCD on New Friends Colony, Rajouri Garden, Defence Colony and Hauz Khas.
Waste segregation is expected to receive a push, as is promotion of e-vehicles. The plan is to come up with e-charging points at over 50 locations and 25 cycle stands near campus areas, an official said.