NEW DELHI: One of the tallest leaders of the Congress party, Sheila Dikshit laid the foundation of modern Delhi. It is hard for any Delhiite not to be touched by the infrastructure projects begun or completed during her three terms as chief minister.
From 1998 to 2013, Dikshit's reign as Delhi CM was the longest ever. One of the biggest legacies left behind by Dikshit has to be her push for environment-friendly public transport and privatization of power in the city, which resulted in uninterrupted supply.
Once she was convinced that a project is for the betterment of people of Delhi, she didn't stop, said Rakesh Mehta, former chief secretary of Delhi. "The iconic Signature Bridge project was her favourite. She was adamant on purchasing low-floor air-conditioned buses also but finance minister AK Walia was of the opinion that the bridge and swanky buses were a waste of funds. She took charge of the finance department and proved her point," said Mehta.
Currently, Delhi has the world's largest fleet of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) based buses for which the credit goes to Dikshit who single-mindedly pushed the plan.
Road infrastructure, including Barahpullah, the signal-free corridor between Gandhi Nagar to Noida, AIIMS flyover-elevated road network, ITO flyover, Rajghat Ring Road and all the elevated road development in the Trans Yamuna region, was her achievement. "The then railway minister and culture minister were vehemently opposing the Barapullah elevated corridor as it was running close to Humayun's tomb, a protected monument. However, Dikshit got her way. She persuaded everyone. She knew it was an important project for the people and will transform commuting in the city," Mehta said.
Delhi is a power surplus city thanks to the Dikshit government welcoming private players in the power distribution and production network. "Today, we don't have power cuts. It is one of the biggest contributions of Dikshit. She did all that was required to improve the financial health of the city to purchase power. Pollution and environment were on the top of her priority list for which she encouraged public participation. For a cracker-free Diwali, she roped in school children," said former chief secretary Praveen Kumar Tripathi.
Dikshit also launched schemes exclusively for women and girls. 'Stree Shakti' (Power of Woman) addresses the needs of women particularly from the economically weaker sections and provides better health, nutrition, education, income generation and legal protection.
The Ladli scheme helped empower girl children born in Delhi and promote their birth registrations. Nitin Panigrahi, Deputy General Manager (Project & Administration) at Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC), said it was Dikshit who conceived and implemented the first public participatory governance model in the city through the 'Bhagidari' scheme.