News articles

Quotes from Shailaja Chandra in Article on Surrogacy

Posted on

pioneer
Quotes from Shailaja Chandra in Article on Surrogacy

Click for Full article
Click for Full article

Shailaja Chandra, former Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Chairman of the Public Grievances Commission and Appellate Authority under the Delhi Right to Information Act, says: “A poor woman can earn anything between Rs1-3 lakh from surrogacy, and with debts and growing expenditures hanging over her head, she agrees or is forced to agree. In most cases, it’s actually the women’s relatives and middlemen who compel them to go through it.”

She adds that the myths around being childless and the reluctance to consider adoption need to be addressed through proper awareness campaigns, and adoption promoted as a first choice. “Not only is that humane, but is also less exploitative on the surrogate, who has to be bolstered with hormones to prepare her to accept the embryo.”

Chandra also believes that IVF centres need to be registered. “The process should be open only to Indians or if one partner is of Indian origin. We must not permit foreigners to enter into surrogacy arrangements because it is akin to using Indian women to make a takeaway baby for them. While foreigners are generous in looking after the woman’s health and nutrition, problems of citizenship, and fulfilling the responsibilities attached to accepting the infant, even if it suffers from physical or mental deficiencies, can arise.”

About how it can be checked if the ban is being upheld once the Bill is passed, Chandra says, “Such a law, if made, will remain like so many other laws — unimplementable. There is no machinery to police what happens between two or three people by mutual consent; desperate couples and future surrogates’ families will find a way of doing it secretly. Can a woman who leaves for her native village for nine months be taken to task? It’s tough to push such laws. Do you think kidney transplant rackets have stopped and all such transplants are altruistic?”

Click for full article             page 1         Page2

Cultural diplomacy as instrument of soft power is underestimated

Posted on Updated on

ht-logoShailaja Chandra | Updated: Oct 21, 2016 23:21 IST

The Namaste India festival was launched I was in Paris in a French museum — at the Musee Guimet devoted to Asian culture (REUTERS)
The Namaste India festival was launched I was in Paris in a French museum — at the Musee Guimet devoted to Asian culture (REUTERS)

Last month when the Namaste India festival was launched I was in Paris in a French museum — at the Musee Guimet devoted to Asian culture. I joined a queue of people into the auditorium to find an intense discussion on new wave Indian cinema. The panellists and audience, all French, exhibited an deep interest in Indian cinema, an advantage we ought to have exploited long ago by creating a pool of film commentators to discuss the socio-political environment on which parallel Indian cinema is based.

Cultural diplomacy is accepted as a powerful instrument of soft power whose outreach is often underestimated. It has been found to be the most effective way of influencing foreign audiences. Other countries reach out to the youth, non-elite and other audiences outside the traditional embassy circuit because this form of diplomacy derives its credibility when it is seen as being independent of government institutions. Instead, our official cultural institutions are directly marketing culture in a way that is often hackneyed, stale and superficial — cardboard cut-outs of the real thing.

People are tired of the same old stuff and all the Indian stereotypes that have been done to death. Instead of a fresh approach to contemporary realities there is a bureaucratisation of culture and far from seeking inputs from artistes, intellectuals and professionals, government organisations and officials decide what to showcase and how. Sadly patronage often has its role in all this, resulting in the resurrection of individuals who have been around for decades. Repackaged content, which we have showcased for decades, no longer attracts audiences who can easily access the best productions at the touch of a button.

Professor Alain Supiot of the College de France and the founder of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Nantes in France feels that “there is a need for the intellectual horizons of culture to go beyond western ways of thinking to establish a dialogue between cultures. The focus of cultural exchange should embrace culture in its broadest sense of the term, by being attentive to the diversity of civilisations.”

For this to happen, there must be an understanding of what French people want. Discussions with Indian authors are big attractions but not two years after a book is released. Textiles are another. “French people are enthralled by Indian textiles and the art of embroidery, weaving and block printing from so many regions” commented an avid admirer of India and who has long been a leading light of the Parisian couture industry. Another comment I heard was “why do you not introduce veg/ non-veg express thalis as a diversion from those “sempiternelle” (French for eternal) pizzas? Or run a shopping arcade of Indian groceries next to Gare du Nord railway terminus?”

And that brings one to ask whatever happened to the Indian cultural centre in Paris? What is the story behind why premises purchased years ago are still lying unused even as Namaste India is launched with so much fanfare? The property bought by the embassy is beautifully located within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower, the Qui de Bramley, and a host of cultural centres representing foreign countries. Possibly a critical CAG paragraph, lack of funds or simple apathy prevents the Centre from starting to function.

What is needed is an effort to refurbish our efforts at cultural diplomacy to demonstrate to a foreign audience that we have the ability to collect and interpret ourselves in a way that responds imaginatively to what people want. We need at the helm of affairs persons who have an understanding of local attitudes that transient embassy employees cannot possess. We also need some way of ensuring that the people who decide how to represent India abroad have the necessary gravitas and the intellectual bandwidth to do so.

Click for e-paper article

Political grandstanding, official disengagement have made MCD mess ugly: Former Delhi Chief Secy

Posted on Updated on

firstpost by Tarique Anwar Feb 5, 2016 18:35 IST

Amid the blame game and confrontation between the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led municipal corporations, the indefinite strike of the civic body employees entered its tenth day on Friday. Despite the Delhi High Court’s intervention and a stern warning by commissioners of North and East MCDs to employees to call off the strike and resume duties with “immediate effect or face action”, the striking doctors, paramedical staff, engineers, teachers and sanitation workers are not ready to bow down. They are demanding a “permanent solution” to their salary problem.

Firstpost spoke to former Delhi Chief Secretary Shailaja Chandra and sought to know from her the origin of the present crisis. She said every year the commissioners of the corporation – during her time it was a single entity – would plead for a grant or a soft loan to clear the salaries of the employees, citing reasons why the corporation had run short of funds. Invariably, the lament from the corporation even then was that the finance and urban development departments had not taken important factors into account and omitted making provisions for supporting MCD.

MCD-strike_PTI2

“It was a regular feature and had happened during my tenure as chief secretary as well. But it used to be resolved with some give and take on both sides. The effort being to harmonise the points of view of the finance department and the municipal corporation. Politics never came into the picture. If the impasse continued, the discussions were raised at the level of the chief minister and there would invariably get resolved.

“In no case did the differences reach the media and certainly not the streets by allowing mounds of garbage to accumulate everywhere. The bottom line was very simple: a solution had to be found and citizens should not be harassed, come what may. It was an unwritten understanding and the political executive and officers from the government and the MCD understood this,” she said.

“This dispute is an annual feature and is something that can be resolved. If there are anomalies caused by trifurcation, these have to be addressed and solutions found. The answer does not lie in blaming each other and stopping salaries,” she said.

Asked how the issues used to be resolved earlier, she explained, “There was always disagreement. Either the finance secretary or the chief secretary would take a call. Or if that did not work, the corporation commissioner would raise the level by meeting the chief minister (CM) or the lieutenant governor (LG) and seek their intervention because the matter was not receiving due attention at the official level. Despite the NCT government and the central government being from different and opposing political parties, the CM or the LG always used to give a hearing and take an administrative decision.”

Why is the same not happening now?

Because unfortunately, according to the former bureaucrat, it has become a subject for political grandstanding in full public view. Also worrying is the fact that officers do not seem to be exerting themselves perhaps because their advice is not heeded. “Officers find solutions when they are asked to do it. But if they are told to stay away, why will they give any suggestion and how will anything ever get done? After all, you may have any number of advisers but if you don’t rely on precedents and the institutional memory available confusion will take over,” she added.

Moreover no one, said Chandra, is exerting themselves to raise revenue. “If some drastic improvement is promised through taxation, public will go along but first they must see a tangible benefit which will come in a time-bound manner. If such an approach is adopted, the government may also not mind doing some temporary hand-holding. But one does not find that vision in the corporations,” she said.

The former chief secretary is not convinced that funds of the order claimed have been denied by the Delhi government “because from the figures put out in the press, which have not been contradicted by anybody, it is apparent that the government has been incrementally raising the amount of money given every year. And in no way has it gone down this year”.

It means, according to Chandra, the corporations – particularly the North and the East – have failed to raise property taxes, which is very irresponsible.

When the unit area method of tax calculation was introduced, the understanding was that a Municipal Valuation Committee would be set up every two years which would recommend raising house tax proportionately. There are A to F category colonies and the number of dwelling units is known.

“In such a legislation, one can tax the colonies having more facilities at a higher rate and reduce it as one moves downwards to less affluent areas. But you cannot maintain status quo for more than 12 years, which is what they have done from 2003 (when the Act came into effect). Definitely if the scope of revenue collection is skewed in favour of South MCD (which is considered rich), it has to be set right through discussion and if that fails through legislation. But first the anomalies and the reasons for it have to be pinpointed leaving no room for claims and counter-claims as is happening now,” she said.

Of course, she said, South MCD is the newer part of the city with large organised residential colonies, expensive properties. But always saying that they are rich and we are poor is not a “tenable argument” because it is just a statement.

“Nobody so far has actually given the exact number of properties within the tax net in all the three corporations and the numbers that have been ignored either because of apathy or connivance. For any financial decision, one must have a figure on the number of dwelling units falling in categories A to H and how many dwellers are actually paying you taxes. Whole of the Walled City in North Delhi is also very congested and raising taxes there may not be easy or practical,” she said.

“Another argument is that East DMC has less income because it has too many unauthorised colonies but what proportion of their populace resides in these colonies? Are the regularised ones paying taxes? East DMC must declare the number of the taxable properties lying in its jurisdiction which are not being taxed. If they are in so much in the red, they should think of innovative measures to raise money,” she said and suggested few measures:

Why are people being permitted to park their vehicles on the roads at night? All the three civic bodies can independently or collectively frame policies to charge people heavily for using public space for private use. The same goes for cars and sentry boxes parked on pavements. As for those who display merchandise on the market pavements, they should be liable to be fined heavily or rent taken if they are being permitted to display or sell goods from public spaces.

It needs regulation and enforcement – but neither is being done. In all markets in the city, the pavements have completely been encroached upon. The fine is too low. Why? What steps are the Delhi government and the MCDs taking to increase income?

“I think that there may be a little truth in the fact that when it was a unified MCD, it was easier to take money from one pocket and put it into another and have some sort of equity. But it cannot become a lifetime excuse,” she added.

Asked why the Fourth Finance Commission, as demanded by the BJP, was not implemented and how legal is the Delhi government’s response that it would accept it only if the panel’s recommendation for handing over the DDA is accepted by the Centre, she replied “The recommendations of the Finance Commission could have been considered and implemented during President’s rule but perhaps being a complex and contentious matter, it was left for an elected government to take a view.”

She added: “When the government took over, it took the approach that the Finance Commission’s recommendations should be implemented fully. Along with the devolution of a percentage of the Delhi government’s resources on the MCDs, it has been stated by AAP spokesmen on TV channels that there were recommendations relating to handing over DDA to the Delhi government. But so far, no one has belled the cat. On a broader plane, if the report has indeed made recommendations relating to the DDA (I have not read the report ) but if it is correct, it is totally outside the purview of the Finance Commission. DDA deals with land, which is not constitutionally under the Delhi government. So, in a way, the AAP government is asking for a constitutional amendment while highlighting the narrow recommendation relating to the DDA. Therefore, it is not implementable and the whole matter has remained up in the clouds.”

Speaking from Bengaluru, where he is undergoing naturopathy treatment, Chief Minister Kejriwal on Wednesday announced a bailout package of Rs 693 crore in a bid to woo the agitating workers of the municipal corporations. He also said, “You cannot tell us to give the money and not give us DDA which is our due and integral to the Finance Commission’s recommendation.”

Fighting dengue: Too many questions, very few answers

Posted on Updated on

HT logoShailaja Chandra | Updated: Sep 21, 2015 01:23 IST

A view of Hindu Rao Hospital's dengue ward. Dengue continues to be rampant in New Delhi. (Saumya Khandelwal/ HT Photo)
A view of Hindu Rao Hospital’s dengue ward. Dengue continues to be rampant in New Delhi. (Saumya Khandelwal/ HT Photo)

The dengue deaths in Delhi have brought to the fore the apathy and ineptitude of the city’s hospitals. They have also exposed the acute absence of coordination between those responsible for health care services and the people.

The dengue epidemic in Delhi is still to peak: It is only by mid-November that the visitation from Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes that spread dengue will end. So unless and until there is clarity about response and responsibility, the number of cases and deaths will spiral, not just in Delhi but in other states too. In fact, of late, there has been an increase in the number of dengue cases across Southeast Asia. The World Health Organization has put out several preventive strategies that are being used by other countries, underscoring the point that dengue epidemics are an indication of the failure of a country’s public health system.

The preventive measures undertaken by the three municipal corporations of Delhi this year have been abysmal and we must seek answers to several questions: How many sanitary inspectors are available for each of the city’s 272 wards? How many institutions and individuals have been fined for ignoring mosquito breeding on their premises? What is the amount of fines levied on them each month? How many places with stagnant water have been covered or treated? What is the ward-wise result of anti-larval measures undertaken in July, August and September? Did the city’s health department provide resources on a normative basis for insecticides, wages and test monitors? Did the officials take notice when the preparation for the dengue season was found unsatisfactory? No one seems to have hard data or credible answers to these questions.

Instead, all we hear are persistent laments about the non-cooperation of private hospitals and implausible claims of increasing beds (sans commensurate medical manpower). This quest for adding more beds is diverting attention from the important referral and case management issues. Delhi’s health department had the responsibility (starting June 2015) to identify tertiary and secondary care hospitals (both in the government and private sectors) and link them for managing dengue-related medical emergencies.

Denouncing private hospitals without notifying the system to be followed by them is the best way of losing allies. The city has some 22 public sector hospitals and more than 30 hospitals in the private sector that have blood banks. At least, a third of all these hospitals could have been designated as nodal centres for providing blood components to attached satellite hospitals.

Undoubtedly public sector hospitals have to bear the brunt of epidemics, despite being over stretched even in normal times. But certainly more than 60 private hospitals in Delhi, which run emergency departments 24X7, can support them. Private hospitals cannot deny competence and refuse dengue patients. Most often, all that is required is to observe and interpret the vital parameters of a patient and provide immediate intervention. Checking blood pressure, administering intravenous fluids, assessing laboratory test results and getting fresh tests done are among the basics that any hospital claiming to run an emergency department has to provide. Hospitals which claim inability to perform these services should be directed to close down their emergency departments.

A canard is being spread that the government has no powers to enlist private hospitals. This is untrue. All private hospitals require a plethora of approvals from the government and they have to comply with a host of laws. As such they respect government authority and respond to reasonable appeals for short-term support during emergencies. No private hospital would wilfully risk losing goodwill by getting publicly shamed for callousness.

Every doctor wants to heal and emergencies often bring out their best. But for this to happen everyone in the hierarchy and in the wider network of health facilities must understand roles and responsibilities. Once they do that, written instructions need to be issued in simple, consistent and implementable language. Those links are missing today. Central monitoring of availability of beds and dengue admissions in designated hospitals would further promote quick response and accountability and the Union health ministry and the Delhi government need to jointly operationalise this. Most important, the network of emergency and tertiary facilities must be notified locality–wise, using all forms of communication.

Dengue management is comparatively routine work, but it can suddenly become complex and daunting. Unlike many other medical emergencies, dengue has the added disadvantage of becoming life-threatening just when signs of recovery show. So if a hospital (government or private) lacks the capacity to deal with a patient, there has to be a common protocol for transferring a case to another designated hospital. Otherwise the tendency to first refuse admission and then push less educated and poorer patients out will not abate.

This phenomenon was studied by the Law Commission, which gave a report in 2006 based on The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labour Act of the United States, also called the ‘Patient Dumping Law’. Once US hospitals too refused to accept poor or uninsured patients brought in an emergency medical condition. The Commission not only gave a comprehensive report on emergency medical care but also provided a model law for the use of state governments, including a protocol for transferring patients. The Delhi government would do well to adopt portions of the Bill. The Centre is unlikely to stand in the way.

Most importantly, without 24×7 political will to confront these challenges, prospects of overcoming dengue appear doomed, and mid-November is still a long way off.

Who really governs Delhi?

Posted on Updated on

the-financial-express Posted: May 26, 2015 12:00 am
While the LG is right to use his authority once he discovers that his orders are being wilfully defied, his duty is to serve the people through the CM

The Constitution has made it clear that the LG can intercede, give interim directions to the government and, in case of difference of opinion, refer the matter to the President.

scfe

The ongoing tussle between the Lieutenant Governor and the chief minister of Delhi has escalated to new highs. Arvind Kejriwal has taken the fight over postings of senior IAS officers to Rashtrapati Bhavan; he has also demanded that the PM allows the city government to function ‘independently’ instead of trying to run it through the LG.

The question everyone is asking is, who is right and can an elected CM function if he does not get to post officers of his choice in key posts? To understand this, one needs to reflect not only on the law but much more on the practice which has evolved over the decades. Unlike full states, the cadre-controlling authority of IAS officers who service the states and Union Territories of Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Goa, Andaman & Nicobar Administration, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Puducherry and Chandigarh is a body chaired by the Union home secretary with the concerned chief secretaries as members. Promotions and inter-state transfers are decided by this body, but within each constituent unit, postings are made by the concerned government.

Read the rest of this entry »

Governance has to be put before vote banks: Shailaja Chandra

Posted on Updated on

Interview with Former Delhi chief secretary
business standardKavita Chowdhury February 7, 2015 Last Updated at 21:42 IST

Shailaja Chandra has had a long career in public service. She has been a Union secretary in the health ministry as well as the Delhi chief secretary, among others. In an interview with Kavita Chowdhury, she talks about the importance of computerised systems in all organisations to bring about good governance. Edited excerpts:

As someone who has 45 years of administrative experience, including some years as the chief secretary of Delhi, what in your view are the challenges that the new Delhi government will face?

Service delivery would be the most important challenge. The connectivity with the individual citizen is essential for accountability.. There are a large numbers of schemes that individual citizens don’t even know about. There is no policy of first in and first out in departments that directly affect citizens. For example, in registering societies, getting certificates needed for school admissions for the economically weaker sections, cash transfers for liquefied petroleum gas, it has to be seen whether the entitled citizens are getting an improved way of living. If out-of-turn approvals and allotments are being made,or if there is a pick-and-choose approach in deciding applications, and there is no idea of the time lag between an application coming in and its disposal. The citizen feels frustrated.

In the public distribution system area, out patient departments of public hospitals, there are long queues. People jump these queues using their influence, ‘speed money’ or by the bravado of their presence and VIP status. But if there is a computerised system in every office and you are able to build a trust in every citizen that the system works, it could check corruption. For that you need to have an independent one per cent check in every department, which will immediately detect what is going wrong and where.

But considering the fact that Delhi has had no elected government for close to a year…

Officers might face a big challenge. In the past nine months, bureaucrats have been working without any political intercession on behalf of the public, which makes for quick decision-making but it may not be good for democracy. A new government and new ministers with the fire and fury of having successfully won an election would like to be seen quickly implementing the promises they made, but the officers will have to keep a check on the developments. For instance, an MLA would want something to be delivered by evening. But officers have to apply certain rules and check entitlement eligibility – that is a huge challenge.

While most political parties have preferred to sidestep the prickly subject of statehood for Delhi, you have been quite vocal about it.

I have been arguing that full statehood does not mean that the Union government has no say; it is only for day-to-day functioning. For instance, if the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was placed under the chief minister, it would make for better planning, with inputs of what the citizens also want, rather than a body that is planning externally. The Constitution precludes land, public order and police as subjects not under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government. But apart from that, constitutionally, all other subjects, after the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) Act was passed should be with the state government which includes smart city plans, housing, construction of roads and setting up markets – all these are of concern to the common man. But the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, the DDA acts, have not changed the term Lt Governor to chief minister, even though the Constitution was amended to do so.

For 24 years, the constitutional provisions have been violated. There are 57 areas under the DDA and about 60 items under the MCD where the Delhi government cannot do anything at all without the Union government’s assent. Even for a simple thing like increasing the fine for littering on the street, the MCD cannot change it and only the Central government can do so.

What have been the roadblocks to this transition?

Nobody wants to give up their authority. Officers within government have not convinced politicians that this is a constitutional violation. I tried during my time as Chief Secretary (between 2002-2004) I tried pursuing it, sent a paper to the Union government despite the then Lt Governor not liking it. But nothing came of it. There is just one Joint Secretary at the Centre looking at Delhi, he doesn’t have the time to look into the delegation of powers. This situation is absurd. And the more it remains this way, there will be less governance, chaos and confusion on municipal matters.

Women security in the capital has been much talked about in these elections. Given the fact that law and order is not under the Delhi government, what can be done to better the situation?

The Chief Minister should attend the monitoring meeting chaired by the Lt Governor and held every fortnight with police commissioners, senior police brass and the Chief Secretary. The CM’s presence and his inputs of, let’s say, increasing crime in a particular area of the city will be pivotal. Such a via media with the presence of a political representative would make for greater accountability.

Delhi is labelled as an unsafe city with the finger pointed at the influx of a large migrant population in the capital.

When the Nirbhaya incident happened, I talked to cops and was told that 60 per cent of rape and molestation cases are done by those in the age group of 14 to 20 years, those who are daily-wage earners, coming from outside the city; therefore, backgrounds of intense poverty. There is also a class divide. So every area would need a different approach – CCTVs, geographic information system mapping, street lighting and so on. The juvenile justice Act needs to be made stringent. To contain crimes against women, police should be the last word as far as safety in the city is concerned. Also, there has to be a semblance of balance between policing in VIP areas and the non-VIP areas. Additionally, there should be that one per cent test check of police stations to see if calls are being answered by women officers, how efficiently they address complaints and so on.

Whether it is the Aam Aadmi Party, the BJP or Congress, all of them have promised poll sops such as lower electricity tariff, free water and so on. How feasible is it to implement all this?

All political parties in all the states make these promises before the elections. But the issue is, how are they going to fund these subsidies, when Delhi gets its resources only from value added tax, excise and entertainment tax. Money is taken out from the back pocket to put into the front pocket – from areas that the public doesn’t see, from school budgets, from maintenance of sewage system and water treatment plants. It is irresponsible to make these promises when sufficient resources are not available. The public will not accept any additional taxation and Delhi can’t go for market-borrowing because it doesn’t have statehood.

The regularisation of unauthorised colonies is a constant as far as Delhi elections go.

Residents in unauthorised colonies comprise 30 per cent of voters – a huge vote bank. They can’t be ignored because they are citizens of the city and need to be provided a modicum of services. But they would need to be charged developmental charges for the services; maybe not all of it but 70 per cent of it. The regularisation of unauthorised colonies should have stopped long ago. Delhi can never become a world-class city as long as there is no right thinking on the part of political parties and vote banks are put before the considerations of governance.

End this rule by remote control: Statehood is a necessity for Delhi

Posted on Updated on

HT logoShailaja Chandra Feb 05, 2015 12:12 IST

Statehood for Delhi is back in the public eye. The Congress and AAP have been needling the BJP for refusing to make a clear commitment to support the demand. Ironically, a Bill to grant statehood was tabled by then deputy prime minister LK Advani in 2003 but it lapsed with the 13th Lok Sabha.

htimage5214

At the time of Independence Delhi was administered by a chief commissioner and after a few changes the Metropolitan Council was set up in 1966 and it was empowered to deliberate and recommend but not legislate. Finally in 1991 Parliament passed the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCT) Act, inserting a special provision in the Constitution.

Two years later, a 70-member assembly was sworn in. The assembly was given the powers to govern and make laws except on three subjects — public order, police and land. But all other subjects that fall under the ambit of other states devolved on Delhi. These include 64 entries in the state list and 47 on the concurrent list of the Constitution. But in violation of the constitutional provision, even in respect of subjects that have nothing to do with the reserved subjects of public order, police and land, a sizeable portion of authority continued to be exercised by the Central government.

There are some 60 matters relating to municipal governance that cannot be administered without the acquiescence of the Union government. The Delhi assembly can pass an amendment but unless the Bill is approved by the lieutenant governor (LG) and the ministries of urban development and home affairs and receives the assent of the President, it cannot become law. This course had to be followed over months when the Property Tax Amendment Bill was enacted in 2003. And that when there was, for once, perfect understanding and agreement between the Central and Delhi governments to effect the amendment. The moot point is: Why did this amendment Bill, which brought huge benefits to tens of thousands of Delhi house-owners, require the approval of the ministries of urban development and home affairs and presidential assent? Only because the MCD Act has not been amended in consonance with the Constitution — something only Parliament can do but no one is keen to take that course. The experience of the past 24 years is evidence of the extreme reluctance that prevails when it comes to giving up power despite the existence of a constitutional provision that over-rides the statute.

Another anachronism is the continuing control of the Delhi Development Authority by the ministry of urban development. The DDA was established in 1957 by an Act of Parliament to promote and secure a planned spatial development of Delhi. Its mandate is primarily to acquire land for the development of new areas and to hand the same over to the relevant authority once developed. But by enlarging its powers and jurisdiction, the DDA also built and managed huge townships like Rohini and Dwarka, besides flyovers, sports complexes and housing for low- to higher-income citizens. After the GNCT Act came into force in 1993, it begs the question as to why the DDA should not be reporting to the chief minister of Delhi. The second Administrative Reforms Commission (during the UPA rule) had strongly recommended that the DDA should be chaired by the chief minister of Delhi instead of the LG, noting that more than 50 provisions continue to require a nod from the Centre. Nevertheless little has changed.

When it comes to the DDA, the amendment of just one section in the DDA Act can place the body under the chairmanship of the chief minister. Even so all powers that rest with the Union government under the Act could and should remain because macro planning for the national capital requires long-term thinking and sound technical advice, which the ministry of urban development is far better equipped to provide. Day-to-day decisions would, however, be taken by the chief minister and the approval of the Union government obtained exactly as is done today.

Is there any plausible reason why full statehood should be denied? Yes. As the national capital, the Union government has the responsibility for the city’s orderly growth and security. That can be achieved by continuing with the Central government exercising powers of oversight by retaining a few supervisory sections that are already in the law. The NDMC too should remain as it is now under the Central government, which would take care of all that matters to the Central government. Sensitive areas like foreign missions, the Red Fort area and some others as may be notified should remain with the Central government.

The Delhi government also has no say in police administration and law and order. This is administered by the ministry of home affairs, through the LG. A balance can be found by having the monitoring meetings with the senior police heads chaired by the chief minister when there is an opportunity to discuss issues which are local, specific and affecting people’s well-being. That would help allay fears about police non-responsibility that prevails.

Finally there is the question of funding. The budget of the government of Delhi is around Rs 40,000 crore, of which the city raises only about three-fourths. Delhi, with a population approaching 20 million (more than 10 full-fledged states), badly needs to take recourse to market borrowing but, not being a state, cannot do so. If Delhi is given statehood subject to restrictions on borrowing, it would enable the state to raise the resources that are required to build a world-class city.

The issue is not statehood for the sake of statehood. It is a necessity for the nation’s capital and one of the most populated cities in the world. It simply cannot continue to be governed by remote control.