This article is part of our special series on Delhi Elections 2020
It was a dark December night, when Balvinder Singh, a 36-year old insurance advisor, returned from work and emptied his trouser pockets as usual only to find that his wallet was missing! There was not much money lost, but a credit card and a debit card, which he blocked immediately. But what annoyed him most was that his driving licence and car registration certificate were lost. Getting duplicates was a hassle he was not looking forward to. His wife suggested he call 1076.
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The couple live with Balvinder’s senior citizen parents in Shakkarpur in East Delhi. Medical stores, bank and financial service office branches, eateries, cycle spare parts, readymade garments, street food vendors all vie for space in this area’s congested bazar, with its many narrow lanes in which small three, four of five storeyed houses lean on each other. Balvinder lives in one such house, and decided to wait for a day before he dialled 1076, hoping someone finds his purse and returns it.
“That did not happen, so I first registered a police complaint, and then dialled 1076,” said Balvinder. This “Sarkar aapke dwar”, helpline number for doorstep delivery of services had been activated less than three months earlier by the Kejriwal government and Balvinder was skeptical as he dialled the number. But the day after he made the call, a “mobile sahayak” knocked at his door, scanned his Aadhaar, PAN card, etc, got him to fill an application, and took Rs 50 by way of charges. Balvinder then received an SMS regarding details of his appointment with the Transport Authority, his registration number, and details of the Rs 330 he had to pay for the duplicate licence. On the fifth day, Balwinder said, he had a new licence.
Many residents in the national capital territory are now as aware of this toll free number 1076 as of emergency numbers 100 or 101 or 131. When it was inaugurated in September 2018, Delhi’s residents could avail of about 40 services like birth certificate, car registration, SC/ST certificate and driving licence. The government’s aim was to deliver, at their doorstep, multi-department services in a time-bound manner without people having to visit government offices.
This service is managed by VFS Global, well known for their visa facilitation services. The government hired the technology agency, which already had in place a number of phone lines and call centres, through competitive bidding. All the agency had to do was hire on contract 300 “mobile sahayaks” who are responsible for collection of documents from the doorstep and delivery of replacements or original papers as the case may be. The feedback of those who avail this service is recorded. To avail the service, a resident has only to show his Aadhaar card and residence proof. By December 2019, the government had scaled up the number of services offered by the helpline to 100.
Getting it started
Implemented by the Administrative Reforms Department of the Delhi government, the AAP government had allotted Rs 18 crore for the scheme in its 2019-2020 Budget, which was later revised to Rs 10 crore. At a news conference in December, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal explained there were three ways of getting government services: a visit to the government offices, where the success rate is 57% and 43% of applications get rejected; online applications in which 45% of applications get cleared while the rest is rejected; and doorstep delivery, where the success rate is 91%.
A government official said they received 11,000 calls the day after the scheme was rolled out. The number of services covered by this helpline covered 14 departments that include revenue, transport, social welfare, food and civil supplies, Delhi Jal Board, labour, SC/ST welfare, tourism and transport, Delhi government, drugs control, women and child development, higher education and Delhi pharmacy council, that regulates and pharmacists and medical stores.
“It covers most services for which people have to connect with the elected government”, the official said, giving examples of issues covered, such as domicile, low income, caste, OBC, marriage certificates, lal dora certificates that demarcate habitable areas of villages from the agricultural land, delay in getting birth and death certificates, change of address documents etc. The most commonly used doorstep delivery services turned out to be additions to ration cards, change of address, duplicate licence and vehicle RC.
When the service completed one year in September 2019, the Delhi government said 1,369,284 calls were received, and of these, 216,054 were requests for services offered. The system had delivered 99.5% of the requests made, according to the government.
At the Krishan Kunj office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate in East Delhi on a Thursday noon, there were two counters to service people who needed something from the government. One of them was long and crowded, and the other had about a dozen people. “I live nearby, and am not in a hurry, so why should I pay Rs 50 for the doorstep delivery?” asked Sanjiv Kumar Gupta, 58, waiting on the longer queue. Those in the shorter queue, a fast track queue of sorts, were people willing to pay Rs 50, and avail the same service that 1076 provides at this counter. Like Neeraj, 19, who had come for his father’s death certificate.
Tussle with Centre
The doorstep delivery of rations, however, ran into trouble. The capital territory has about 20 lakh ration cards that enable about 80 lakh people to avail rations at almost no cost. When the Centre linked subsidised rations through the Public Distribution System (PDS) to Aadhar, the Kejriwal government said over 2.5 lakh ration card holders in the capital could not avail of rations because of Aadhar-related issues. The Delhi government also maintained there was a lot of leakage and corruption in the distribution of rations, and decided to deliver rations at the doorstep through other agencies.
The capital territory government, though a state, does not enjoy full statehood. The police for instance is under the Union Home Ministry and the Delhi Development Authority is under the Union Ministry for Urban Development. Kejriwal fought a relentless turf war till July 2018, when the Supreme Court affirmed the elected government’s supremacy on all things other than police, land and public law and order.
The verdict notwithstanding, the Lt Governor Anil Baijal stepped in and made some changes in transfers ordered by the Kejriwal government, through the office of the chief secretary. If this were not enough, then Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Kumar alleged that he was assaulted by AAP legislators at Kejriwal’s residence in February 2018, when deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia was also present.
While the officer said he was summoned to discuss a delay in release of advertisements for television, the elected government said it was to discuss food subsidy for the BPL. This led to a stand-off between the bureaucrats of the Delhi government and its elected representatives, with officers not attending meetings called by the elected government. The Delhi police registered a case, interrogated Kejriwal, and charge sheeted Kejriwal and his deputy. That was when the government went to the apex court. But before the verdict, Anshu Kumar was transferred.
While it was a showdown in full view of the public, the public was not affected by it. Lt Governor Anil Baijal spoke favourably about rations at the doorstep in his customary speech as he inaugurated the Delhi Assembly’s budget session in 2018. But he later directed the government to refer it to the Centre before implementing it.
It is the limited powers of the elected government that is now giving Union Home Minister Amit Shah the ammunition to say that Kejriwal should clear the protest at Shaheen Bagh, knowing full well that police and law and order in the capital are not under the Chief Minister.
Effective counter to BJP
The Aam Aadmi Party’s legislators, who by and large say they function like “relatives” of people in their constituency, mostly direct people who come to them with some grievance to 1076. “Earlier when people would go to a government department, they would be told that this document is not there, that is missing, this is incorrect and so on,” said Nithin Tyagi, the party’s MLA who is contesting for a second time from the Lakshmi Nagar constituency. “People would be harassed. That would then be sorted out by middlemen and agents for a hefty amount. The AAP government and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal put an end to that. Now it is upto the mobile sahayak to visit the resident who has complained and scan all documents”.
Tyagi, 46, has a fixed working schedule that takes him to all the seven offices he has set up in his constituency at least twice a week. “It is like a Janata Darbar. I come to this office in Shakkarpur between 10 am to 1 pm every Tuesday and Saturday and people know that,” he said, as he rushed off to campaign. Incidentally, a Delhi assembly constituency is way smaller than in other states, less than 1,37,000 people cast their votes from here in 2015.
Tyagi’s explanation of how grease money has been wiped out notwithstanding, some AAP foot soldiers believe they have not been able to do as much as they wanted to on this front. “When we came to power in 2013 for 49 days, we jailed 52 officers on corruption charges through the Anti-Corruption Bureau,” said one party worker, not wanting to be identified. “But when we formed government in 2015 and started this work, the Centre took over the ACB, because they were afraid that all their officials will be jailed,” the worker added. “Since then Kejriwal has not been able to fight corruption the way he would have wanted to. That led to the constant clash with the Centre”.
He also recalls how the Lt Gov of Delhi would sit over files for months forcing the Kejriwal government to knock at the Supreme Court to get a decision. One such, according to AAP, pertains to the delivery of rations at the doorstep and another about the installation of CCTV cameras. In fact, Kejriwal and his deputy Sisodia resorted to a sit in in the Lt Governor’s house for nine days over this issue.
Also, a few recent incidents helped AAP expose the falsity of BJP’s allegation that the promised CCTVs have not been installed. It was the footage in one that helped the Delhi Police nab within 24 hours the motor-bike borne thief who snatched the purse of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s niece. And when Home Minister Amit Shah reiterated that the AAP government had not installed the cameras that were meant to provide security to the capital’s citizens, AAP released a footage that showed Shah getting out of his car to enter the house of Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari in South Ganesh Nagar!
“Anyone committing a crime in Delhi cannot escape our cameras” is the confident AAP claim, adding that the LADS funds of all 67 MLAs has gone into improving civic services.
Sachin Thukral, who runs a small variety store in the constituency, said what he finds most refreshing about the AAP legislators is that “there is no huge security carcade going with them as they are generally on their foot, in their or their friend’s car or even scooters and motorcycles.” The informality is not confined to MLAs who are not ministers. Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister, is often seen in parks, sometimes treating his daughter to an ice cream, absolutely unfettered by the security trappings that power seems to bring.
If perceptions win elections, then AAP has certainly built up a strong perception of its intentions and delivery of good governance, in partial if not in full measure.