New Delhi: The excitement was palpable at the tiny, largely lower middle class locality of east Delhi where the AAP government's unique “participatory budgeting” exercise was set rolling today in the presence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Scheduled to start at 9 A.M., the event which was delayed by more than an hour managed to generate a substantial buzz and a sizeable crowd had gathered under a huge tent specially erected for the occasion in West Vinod Nagar. Even as the ministers and host of officials from various government departments and agencies took the stage, signs of impatience were evident among many in the crowd as they jostled to grab the microphone for airing their grievances in hope for a quick redressal.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was at pains to explain that although the forum was open to take all sorts of suggestions and complaints, it was essentially for “specific” and not “generic” demands.
But Kejriwal's announcement that the fund allocated for the projects was a mere Rs 50 lakh invited snide remarks from a section.
“What can be done with this amount that they are raising all these kinds of issues?” quipped an elderly lady. The crowd was also divided over Sisodia's move to question and threaten to suspend an official of the Delhi Jal Board whom he called on stage after complaints from some locals.
While the majority relished the public admonition of a government official, saying “it was much needed”, a small section decried the “public spectacle”. “What is it if not a public spectacle? It seems straight out of a Bollywood movie. There are systems in place to prevent graft and to hold officials accountable which need to be strengthened, but not this,” said a government official who did not want to be named.
But for Kanhaiya Sharma and Harish Chandra, it was a much-needed step which they said would “generate fear among the officials”.
“They will learn and make amends only after such public shaming. See how they are finding it difficult to speak in front of the public,” said Harish, a local.
Also, a public scrutiny of old-age pension seekers, wherein the applicants were lined up and the locals were asked to comment on their eligibility was, for many, in bad taste. “What is the point I do not understand. Such scrutiny of elderly people's eligibility should be done on a door-to-door basis, not in this fashion,” said one local although another said it would help weed out the ineligible recipients of government handouts.
“Only the deserving ones will get the benefits. Not the relatives of politicians and officials,” he said. But the management of the event left much to be desired for Priyanka, a college student.
“We waited our turn for the entirety of the event but didn't get a chance to put our point across. I am sure libraries are needed but that doesn't mean high-tension wires are a non-issue only because it did not get the required votes. At least they could have let me put my point across,” she lamented.