Aam Aadmi's Ambedkar
Eulogising Ambedkar and restoring the spirit of the Indian Constitution, Delhi’s AAP government has transformed the narrative of equitable administration in the country
After millennia of slavery to foreign rulers, by the time India attained freedom in 1947, it had missed epochal events like the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution that had swept through the West. In this backdrop, our freedom fighters had to fulfil the onerous task of steering a newly-formed nation out of the labyrinth of poverty, illiteracy, feudalism, dogma and into the new world that was beginning to take shape everywhere else.
To achieve this objective of building a new nation, the Constituent Assembly was formed to codify a protoplasm which would serve as the guiding light for this new nation. In December 1946, the Constituent Assembly of India was elected to write the Constitution of India and its members served as the nation's first Parliament, with the Chairman of its drafting committee being Dr B R Ambedkar and Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President.
Months later, on January 26, 1950, We the People of India declared ourselves a sovereign republic by giving unto ourselves a Constitution that guarantees liberty, freedom, fraternity, fundamental rights, a secular fabric, institutions for checks and balances and, above all, equality to all of us.
What it meant was that even those segments of society which had been traditionally and historically marginalised due to skewed social structures and prevalent stigma would be ensured equal opportunity by the State. Although anomalies in social strata remain to this day, large sections of the historically disenfranchised have been able to lift themselves out of this rut that their forefathers had borne for generations. The credit for moderation in their plight goes entirely to the brilliant Constitution drafted by Babasaheb.
Today, more than ever, those same constitutional tenets drafted by Babasaheb are under stress and need reaffirmation since a mood of majoritarianism and its resultant hegemony have become the new normal in the past few years.
A beacon of light still shines bright in this morass – in 2013 and 2015 Delhiites elected a set of honest novices as their representatives. The Aam Aadmi Party's inception too was precluded by a mass movement to bring back constitutional propriety, transparency in public life and codified checks on the powerful to eradicate corruption rampant across high offices. True to its inception, the AAP government under Arvind Kejriwal's sincere leadership has diligently stuck to the solemn covenants given to its people by serving them in the most professional yet humane manner. This has been possible by respecting Babasaheb's Constitution, in letter and spirit, of ensuring public welfare for all, especially those at the bottom of the heap, whose voices mostly go unheard in the din and cacophony of politics.
Be it healthcare, education, water, sanitation, social welfare or a myriad of other deliverables, the AAP government has successfully provided succour to the nearly 20 million residents of Delhi. Naturally, the biggest beneficiaries of such welfare schemes have been the hitherto marginalised, who are now becoming equal partners in nation building with an improved quality of life.
It indeed is a massive homage to Babasaheb and the Indian Constitution when initiatives pioneered by the AAP government receive critical acclaim from both ends of the spectrum – be it the direct beneficiaries or the appreciation received from renowned media and notable personalities. A few such people friendly and massively beneficial schemes have been mentioned here:
Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinic: Accessible and quality healthcare services through primary, secondary and tertiary facilities, out of which the primary care is delivered through dispensaries, secondary healthcare is delivered through multi-speciality hospitals and tertiary health care services through super-speciality hospitals. These health facilities cater to the needs of not only the population of Delhi but also the migratory and floating population from the neighbouring states which constitute a considerable patient load.
Happiness Curriculum: Happiness Curriculum has been initiated in all Delhi Government schools from Classes Nursery to Eight.
Education Loan Scheme: For pursuing professional and technical courses, loans up to Rs 7.50 lakh for studying in India and up to Rs 15 lakh for studying abroad are being sanctioned.
Chief Minister's Urban Leaders Fellowship Programme: This scheme provides a unique opportunity to young leaders across India to work within Delhi Government and address some of the most pressing urban challenges in India.
Free Wi-Fi facility at public places: To provide a safer environment to the residents of the city, the Delhi Government had initiated a Wi-Fi facility at public places – among the pilot projects of the government.
Doorstep Delivery of Public Services: Under this scheme, 40 services, including certificates of marriage, caste, domicile, income, births, deaths and duplicate RC among others, will be delivered at a citizen's doorstep.
Pension Scheme: The Delhi government provides a pension of Rs 2,500 to senior citizens, widows and handicapped persons. This is the highest amount of pension given by any state government in the country.
Delhi Pilgrim Scheme: Under this scheme, a Delhi resident above 60 years of age will be eligible to take a free pilgrimage along with his or her spouse. With the Mukhyamantri Teerth Yatra Yojana, 1,100 senior citizens from each of the 70 assembly constituencies in Delhi can undertake a pilgrimage.
Jai Bhim Mukyemantri Pratibha Vikas Yojna: Under this scheme, free entrance coaching will be provided for Scheduled Caste (SC) students preparing for civil services, judicial services, banking, engineering, medicine and other competitive examinations.
Compensation Policy: Here, ex gratia relief is provided to martyred kins – family members of 20 martyrs from Delhi Police, Delhi Fire Service and BSF will get Rs 1 crore each in compensation.
Turn safai karamcharis to entrepreneurs: To rehabilitate manual scavengers, Delhi Government is all set to turn safai karamcharis into entrepreneurs by providing them with loans to own sewer cleaning machines. The scheme will not only provide a dignified life to safai karamcharis/manual scavengers but also create a clean and safe environment for Delhiites.
Enhancement of financial assistance to leprosy-affected persons: An enhancement of financial assistance of Rs 3000 to leprosy-affected persons has been initiated – this is highest in the country provided by any state government.
Support to NGOs: This scheme offers monetary aid of Rs 50,000 to NGOs in the form of tentage, lighting, chairs, tables, among others, to mark the death/birth anniversaries of Dr B R Ambedkar, Sant Ravidas and Maharishi Balmiki.
Play & Progress Scheme: For school-level sports talent, Delhi Government will provide financial assistance of up to Rs 3 lakh to support sportspersons for achieving excellence in sports.
Setting up academies of different languages: To promote different regional languages in NCT of Delhi, Delhi Government set up 15 new regional language academies across the city.
Increase in cash incentive for outstanding sportspersons of Delhi: Cash incentive is being provided to the outstanding sportspersons of Delhi for their achievements in the Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games including the Para Games. The amount has been increased to Rs 3 crore. Silver medal winners, who earlier received Rs 50 lakh and Rs 30 lakh, will now get Rs 2 crore and Rs 1 crore.
Delhi Government to give Rs 2 lakh per acre aid for park maintenance: In a bid to encourage public participation in greening initiatives, Delhi government has decided to double the financial assistance to Rs 2 lakh per acre provided annually to the RWA and NGOs.
Ambedkar Pathshala for the financially weak: The idea behind Ambedkar pathshalas is to provide a level playing field to the children who are economically disadvantaged. School children, mostly from Standard VI to VIII, are being provided tuition in these pathshalas. The motive is to help the children who, as per the Central Government's no-detention policy, were given entry to senior classes but continued to battle poverty.
Commemorating Babasaheb B R Ambedkar's Parinirvan Diwas on December 6, the AAP government is humbled and privileged that its policy of "those who have less in life should have more in law" has eulogised both Babasaheb's and the Indian Constitution's spirit in its best ability.
(The author is Minister of Social Welfare, SC/ST Welfare, Delhi Government. The views expressed are strictly personal)