As his government complete its first year in office (of its third term), Delhi’s chief minister recounts the challenges and achievements of the year that was and offers a glimpse into the road ahead.
A year ago, the people of Delhi gave me the opportunity to serve them for the third time as their chief minister. In a country where governments change every five years, I consider it a great honour that my people reposed their faith in me and the Aam Aadmi Party. We set many challenging, ambitious goals for our first year this term. The universe, unfortunately, had other plans. Soon we were all confronting one of the greatest challenges to face humanity. As we started preparing to face the pandemic, many experts said that Delhi, like most other international cities, would crumble under pressure. But in fact, with the collective effort of every single man, woman and child of my city, we have come out of this crisis stronger than ever before.
The entire world, country, and the people of Delhi have been fighting the pandemic for the past year. It was especially difficult for Delhi as we bore the brunt of the first wave. Thousands of incoming passengers from all over the world arriving in the Capital led to several infection spikes during the past few months. The US recorded 6,300 cases in New York in the first week of April, far fewer than Delhi at the time. Yet the health system of perhaps the greatest city in the world was brought to its knees. There were lines of New Yorkers on the streets outside hospitals, which were full, with no space for patients even in the corridors. Major cities all around the world, no matter how sophisticated their systems, have faced significant challenges. Many were brought to the point of collapse. Some did collapse.
But in Delhi, even in November 2020 — with the city recording a record high 8,500 Covid-19 cases a day — we had more than 7,000 beds vacant for patients who sought treatment.
On July 2 last year, our government launched India’s first plasma bank at Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in Delhi. The Delhi government was the first in India to seek permission for trials of plasma therapy in April 2020. Subsequently we became the first state to open a plasma bank in India in July 2020. A total of 4,929 patients have received plasma from the plasma bank at ILBS hospital. With the success of the first plasma bank, a second plasma bank was commissioned at Delhi’s LNJP hospital. Taking a cue from the ‘Delhi Model’ of battling Covid-19, the US adopted the model of convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of critically-ill coronavirus patients.
The home isolation model of the Delhi government was much appreciated throughout the country. Around 312,000 people have been treated under home isolation so far, a technique we were the first to pioneer, at scale. It was later adopted by several cities across the globe. This model helped asymptomatic patients or patients with mild symptoms recover in the comfort of their homes, with adequate provision of guidance and assistance from the Delhi government’s medical teams.
While we were dealing with the pandemic, we also had to face a humanitarian crisis in the form of unemployment and migration caused due to the lockdown. Over 13 million people were provided with free ration every month during this period. This accounts for nearly 65% of Delhi’s population. We provided one-time financial assistance to auto and taxi drivers– a crucial lifeline for so many families who had no source of income during the lockdown.
Throughout this whole process, this unrelenting battle against Covid-19, we worked hard to make sure no person had to leave their home and stand in a queue to get assistance. My government was well aware that some of the worst affected people during the lockdown were construction workers–and they were supported with the highest financial assistance of ₹10,000 each. Approximately 40,000 construction workers who were registered in Delhi with the Construction Workers Welfare Board benefited from this initiative.
To salute the contributions of our Corona warriors, my government launched a unique scheme under which, if a Corona warrior, be it civil defence volunteers, policemen and policewomen , doctors, sanitation workers, lost their life to Corona, their families would be provided with financial assistance of ₹ 1 crore from the Delhi government. At every point in this battle the people of Delhi have stood firmly by those who have stood with them.
Amidst these chaotic conditions, the students of Delhi government schools made us all proud by excelling in their class 12 board examinations. 98% of our students passed. This has been a historic high and a stamp of approval for Delhi’s education system. Once again, they managed to outperform Delhi’s private schools. Another bright spot this year was finding a viable solution to the recurring issue of stubble burning that causes pollution all over northern India. We collaborated with IRAI to successfully pilot the Pusa bio-decomposer technique. This will prove to be a landmark step that can bring down pollution arising from crop stubble burning.
Even though the government was battling Corona for much of the last year, we also ensured that work did not stop on other important issues facing the national capital. In the coming year, we will be launching some flagship schemes that will further improve the lives of millions of Delhiites. I am happy that the doorstep delivery of ration will be started by the month of March, after which people will no longer need to queue up at a ration shop. It will be delivered at their home at a time of their convenience. This will eradicate the frequent corruption and harassment faced by so many people as they wait for their monthly ration. This is truly a revolution in the history of Indian public distribution.
This year has taught us many lessons. It has been a year of self-reflection for most of us. We have all had a chance to reassess the priorities in our life. I, for one, feel thankful and privileged to have been given an opportunity to serve the people of Delhi. I promise to work harder and do my best to make sure that our beautiful city is ready for any challenge that we may ever come across. Covid has only made the strong people of Delhi even stronger.