Few things AAP Govt in Delhi must do
Gopal Krishna, the author of this article, is an activist. He runs ToxicsWatch Alliance, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), IMOWatch, MediaVigil & WaterWatch Alliance. He is also researching the corporate crimes in India after Independence. He can be contacted at krishna2777[at]gmail.com.
Few things AAM AADMI PARTY Govt in Delhi must do:
1. It should abandon hazardous waste incinerator based power plant in Okhla and adopt zero waste philosophy for decentralized management of municipal waste.
Delhi residents heaved a sigh of relief with the electoral defeat of Sheila Dikshit who vociferously supported the waste incinerator based power plant in Okhla, Narela-Bawana and Ghazipur. Even Jairam Ramesh as the Environment Minister had written to Sheila Dikshit, Delhi Chief Minister confirming violations of environmental regulations but she did not pay heed to the bitter opposition to Okhla’s waste incinerator plant. This plant is based on an admittedly unproven Chinese technology located in Sukhdev Vihar amidst residential colonies and in the vicinity of a bird sanctuary, vegetable market, hospitals and educational institutions, which faces bitter resistance from the residents, environmental groups and waste recycling workers. Environmental groups have been opposing it since March 2005 when Rakesh Mehta was the Commissioner of Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
The residents have been demanding closure of the power plant by Delhi’s Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Co Pvt Ltd (TOWMCL) of M/s Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited. The Jindal’s plant is meant only for 2050 tons of municipal waste. After 28 dates of hearing at Delhi High Court and about a dozen hearing at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the matter is listed for hearing yet again on January 15, 2014.
Meanwhile, an incineration based waste to energy plant in the suburban Jiading district, China exploded at 3.00pm on December 5, 2013 killing at least one person and injuring at least 5 persons. The explosion happened at an incineration based waste to energy plant with a capacity of 1,500 tons per day.
Like Delhi’s waste, Chinese waste also has low calorific value and unfit for burning to generate energy but incinerator technology companies have bulldozed their technologies for energy generation and waste management. Like Jiangqiao Incineration Plant, Okhla plant also boasts of having won awards that disregard the human cost of such hazardous plants. Waste incinerator technology is a fake solution and exposes the hollowness of carbon trade as it takes governments for a ride by making them adopt proposals for building landfills in the sky. Chinese incinerator technology and its ilk face relentless opposition across the globe. Sheila Dikshit’s initiatives have distorted waste management and snatched the livelihood of waste recycling workers. AAM AADMI PARTY’s arrival has come as a ray of hope for the aggrieved residents to save them from an impending public health disaster.
2. Make present and future generation of Delhi residents safe from the terrorism of private schools, hospitals and transport
AAM AADMI PARTY’s Government should adopt Common School System which has been advocated for long since. In recent times it was recommended by a Committee appointed by Nitish Kumar government but he did not take any step to act on its recommendation that called “for a legislation underpinning the Common School System.” The Delhi Government should use it and pass legislation for it. If it happens it would be a trendsetter beyond empty posturing. The new government should provide robust public health system like Germany and Cuba instead of promoting five star hospitals which compel women to mortgage their jewels for medical expenses. This makes the poor fall into a vicious debt trap.
AAM AADMI PARTY’s choice of Metro as a mode of transport to commute instead of availing private vehicle is a welcome step. Earlier, Veerapa Moily had announced that he would use public transport once a week starting Oct 9, 2013 but it soon turned out that it was empty posturing. His acceptance of the role of being an Environment Minister who has a regulatory role exposes his hypocrisy because as Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas is promoter of projects which are cause of environmental destruction. How can he be allowed to be a promoter as well as a regulator? Such gross conflict of interest exposes Moily as one of the most insincere politicians in the country. AAM AADMI PARTY’s should provide infrastructure and space for walking and cycling should get even more priority than public transport. Wednesday or Friday should be declared a Free Public Transport Day as first step towards making public transport totally free. The public transport can be funded in full by means other than collecting fares from passengers. It may be funded by national, regional or local government through taxation. Several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have converted their bus networks to zero-fare. The city of Hasselt in Belgium is a notable example: fares were abolished in 1997 and ridership was as much as “13 times higher” by 2006. Zero-fare transport can make the system more accessible and fair for low-income residents. Road traffic can benefit from decreased congestion and faster average road speeds, fewer traffic accidents, easier parking, savings from reduced wear and tear on roads. It will lead to environmental and public health benefits including decreased air pollution and noise pollution from road traffic. If use of personal vehicles/cars is discouraged, zero-fare public transport could mitigate the problems of global warming and oil depletion.
Delhi’s new Government should take lessons from countries and cities which are care free. Copenhagen, one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, in Denmark has successfully transformed car parks into car-free public squares and car-dominated streets into car free streets.
3. Make Delhi India’s first asbestos free state
There are 3 factories engaged in handling asbestos namely, Makino Auto Industries (P) Ltd in Shahdara, Brakes International in Udyog Vihar and Minocha Metals (P) Ltd in Patparganj Industrial Area. They should be asked to switch non-asbestos materials in the light of the fact that more than 50 countries have banned white asbestos mineral fibers that causes incurable lung cancer according to World Health Organisation. This will go a long way in combating fatal diseases caused corporate crimes and in making Delhi the first state in the country to adopt zero-tolerance policy towards the killer fibers. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) passed an order in Case No: 693/30/97-98 recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing be replaced with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful. PK Tripathi, Chief Secretary, Government of Delhi informed Dr Barry
Castleman, a former WHO consultant that asbestos was banned in Delhi at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi in December 2012. It has been claimed that NCT of Delhi has banned use of asbestos roofs for new schools. If this indeed true the order has not been implemented, the official letters should be made accessible on Delhi’s Govt’s website and steps taken to ensure that only non-asbestos building and water supply pipes etc are procured. A register of asbestos laden buildings and victims of asbestos related diseases should be created. A compensation fund for the victims of primary and secondary exposure must be established. Villages in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali in Bihar and Bargarh in Odisha have stopped the establishment of asbestos based plants. If AAM AADMI PARTY takes note of it and acts decisively it will send nationwide and worldwide clear signal that its government is sensitive to environmental and workers’ issues.
4. Abandon 12 digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/aadhaar number in Delhi
The new Government in Delhi must scrap UID/aadhaar related regressive legacy of Indian National Congress led regime which made right to have citizens’ rights dependent on being biometrically profiled and not on constitutional guarantees and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This has takes citizens to pre-Magna carta days (1215 AD) or even earlier to the days prior to the declaration of Cyrus, the Persian King (539 BC) that willed freedom for slaves. Should it not be resisted? The democratic mandate in Delhi is against UID/aadhaar which was made compulsory and caused hardship to residents of Delhi. Unmindful of the fact that people’s right to energy and to cooking fuel funded by government is being snatched away by linking it with aadhaar. The right to life and livelihood is under tremendous threat because significantly large number of Indians has been moved away from fire wood and coal based cooking. Delhi, for instance claims to be a 100 % LPG state. That means right to life and livelihood can be snatched away with its link with aadhaar. Thus, the threat of exclusion in absence of aadhaar based on decrees and sanctions unleashes violence on the people. This is unconstitutional.
All parties other than Congress must rigorously examine the ramifications of biometric information based identification of residents of India in the light of global experiences. UK, China, Australia, USA and France have scrapped similar initiatives. US Supreme Court, Philippines’ Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the indiscriminate biometric profiling of citizens without warrant.
AAM AADMI PARTY ought to take note of the fact that endorsing Supreme Court’s order, even Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance in its most recent report dated 18 October, 2013 has asked Government of India to issue instructions to State Governments and to all other authorities that 12 digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/aadhaar number should not be made mandatory for any purpose. The Seventy Seventh Report of the 31 member Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance reads, “Considering that in the absence of legislation, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is functioning without any legal basis, the Committee insisted the Government to address the various shortcomings/issues pointed out in their earlier report on ‘National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010′ and bring forth a fresh legislation.”
If AAM AADMI PARTY introduces this resolution, it will further establish its claim to represent the common man.
In any case, in view of the order dated November 26, 2013, the new Delhi Government will have to file its affidavit in the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) NO(s). 494 OF 2012 because notices have been “issued to all the States and Union Territories through standing counsel. In its interim order dated September 23, 2013, the court has directed, “In the meanwhile, no person should suffer for not getting the Adhaar card inspite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Adhaar Card voluntarily…” When Ministry of Petroleum sought the modification of this order this order was reiterated on November 26 wherein the court said, “Interim order to continue, in the meantime.” The next date of hearing is on January 28, 2014.
In the meanwhile, a resolution was passed by West Bengal Assembly on December 2, 2013 against biometric aadhaar related programs. AAM AADMI PARTY Govt should introduce a resolution in the Delhi Assembly seeking scrapping of biometric aadhaar asking all the parties to support the resolution. It is evident that from the resolution against the aadhaar
that all the parties other than Indian National Congress are opposed to the implementation of Aadhaar based programs.
Notably, wherever Direct Benefits Transfers scheme based on aadhaar was launched in the states that went for elections recently, Indian National Congress lost. Rahul Gandhi had turned aadhaar as his key promise in UP and Amethi but he and his party lost miserably in Uttar Pradesh election too. Promises based on biometric aadhaar is like India Shining campaign of BJP-led Government are rooted in a make believe world to which Indian voters are allergic. Even Sanjay Gandhi faced the adverse consequences of forcing planning on human body. Aadhaar linked programs make Indian citizens subjects of Big Data companies. It is akin to Sanjay Gandhi’s forced family planning programs. Despite the ongoing electoral debacle being faced by Indian National Congress, it has failed to see the writing on the wall.
The abandonment of biometric aadhhar number by AAM AADMI PARTY will demonstrate that its government will end the culture of spying on its citizens and children in myriad disguises. It will make citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state.