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Thursday, December 05, 2019

Modi ji would not know names of all ministers in his cabinet, but he knows me: Satyendar Jain

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, who also holds the Power, PWD and Home portfolios, speaks to The Indian Express on the recent burglary at his home, the tussle with MCDs, and Delhi government’s big-ticket announcements — from 2.1 lakh streetlights to mohalla clinics

Written by Mallica Joshi , Rahul Sabharwal | New Delhi | Updated: September 29, 2019 7:03:25 am
satyendar jain, satyendar jain interview, delhi health minister, aap government, delhi assembly elections, narendra modi, delhi city news Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain. (Express File Photo)

The project to install streetlights across the city was among the first things the AAP government had promised to start. But it’s taken four years to complete…

In all places we realised were dark spots, we got streetlights installed. We faced a lot of trouble because they (MCDs) were not ready to give us no-objection certificates. Then the court had to intervene. Once lights were installed, municipal corporations were not ready to take the handover; they still aren’t.

Was it about who gets the credit?

Who is getting any credit in any case? We put up 38,000 lights; is anyone coming to give us credit? There are no names on streetlights. We are seeing a similar problem in parks. Municipal corporations are only interested in corruption… everyone is scared of them. They don’t want to take the handover (of streetlights) because they want us to give them money instead of the responsibility to operate them. But there is no account of the money you give them.

It was when we were installing CCTVs that we realised this model could work for lights as well. We take the connection from the meter of the person whose house we are putting up the light on. We have planned to put up 2.1 lakh lights. The initial capital cost works out to be 5-10 times lesser than installing a pole and light. The power consumption bill will be reimbursed to the homeowner. Discoms are on board. If there’s more demand, we are ready to increase estimates. East Delhi is small in terms of area but there are a lot of dark spots in the lanes there.

If you go abroad, you will realise poles are not used to set up streetlights. They are all installed on walls. I saw this first in Rome a few years ago. Only we do it differently. We put up poles because it costs more. After coming back from Rome, I tried it out but it did not work because we hadn’t worked out a solution. When we kicked off the CCTV project, it came to us that we could use the same method for streetlights.

Is the deadline for 1,000 mohalla clinics by year-end a little too ambitious?

It is good that it’s ambitious. The 250-odd mohalla clinics or primary health centres we have started is the highest in any city in the world. We are adding more soon.

How is your plan to rent spaces for these working out?

It is going well. We have already got 200 sites. Our opponents oppose this and that’s why it gets more popular. Mohalla clinic is a small thing. Our opponents made it big, and I thank them for opposing it. They ran campaigns passing off half-constructed clinics as functional ones. Congress’s Vijender Singh went to a clinic after closing hours and said it was shut. Negative publicity is more useful. BJP is now saying we put up lights after four years. That is because BJP-run municipal corporations did not install them. Corporations get Rs 1,100 crore as electricity tax; it is their responsibility. We have to do this because of their failure. After criticising this for two days, they are asked to stop by the central leadership as they are worried about the public’s reaction.

You faced criticism for the decision to waive bills of those who use up to 200 units of power each month. Some say this is akin to doling out freebies.

MPs get 4,000 units free. No intellectual or media house has any problem, neither does anyone ask them anything. The MP sits in his car while the chauffeur drives, but he wants the free power only for himself. Why doesn’t he want it for his chauffeur? … So many leaders have bought helicopters, but no one says anything. If we look at the society, it is like a triangle, the ones on top are sitting on the ones at the bottom. They want to push everyone down. We want to push the ones at the bottom towards the top… If they save, they can buy things like shoes or clothes or even a Rs 10 ice-cream for their children.

So these schemes are your core campaign?

People vote on two things — political legacy or work done. We don’t have legacy, just work. They are welcome to pitch political legacy, we will tell people about our work. If people vote on work, they will get work for another five years… Why should we contest on their turf? When we give people basic requirements for free, their class improves… If someone earns Rs 15,000 in Delhi and doesn’t get any of this free, he will not be able to feed is family.

What’s the status of two government hospitals supposed to start in December?

They will not be functional by December. It will take at least six more months.

What about hiring doctors?

We can do these things overnight. Tell L-G saheb to give us the charge and we will do everything. It is odd that you are running something but are told that all your staff will be hired and provided by someone else. But this is democracy, even though I believe that no one who benefits from democracy actually wants it. Be it politicians, media or judiciary. They all just want its benefits. They only want to grab power.

What’s the status of the cases against you?

Once they got after me, it only helped me. Everywhere I went, people knew me. Modi ji would not know the names of all the ministers in his cabinet, but he knows me. The CBI is doing their job, I am doing mine.

Do you expect any development on that front?

It doesn’t matter to me. The public knows everything. There was a burglary at my house recently. Can you imagine? At the Home Minister’s house! Across four floors, the thieves pulled out clothing and spread it across the floor. Books were taken off shelves. Had they come to steal or read? Several people have told me that this wasn’t really a burglary. Police would have caught the thieves. Elections are coming.

What is happening on the WiFi project front? It was a big promise that still remains unfulfilled.

It is progressing. We have invited tenders for it. Within 10-15 days, we should see some real progress. We should have an announcement to make before Diwali.

Any other big-ticket announcements in the pipeline?

We want to be a lighthouse that people will force their leaders to move towards. They are being forced to rename mohalla clinics and replicate that in their states. Some call it the basti davakhaana, some say let us wait a bit to see if AAP wins again. They want to use the mohalla clinic concept after we are out of power. They (the opposition) don’t want the poor to rise. They only want the elite… The work we have done is reversible at the moment… If we don’t come into power again, all improvements can be stopped. But once 1,000 clinics are constructed, it will be tough to shut them down. We have found solutions for issues like education, CCTVs, health and water… India will not come in the category of developed nations with their (the opposition parties’) mindset, you need the aam aadmi mindset.

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