‘Delhi should fight for full UT status. It will reduce tussles’: URJA Prez Atul Goyal

United Resident Joint Action Force (URJA) president Atul Goyal says the constant fight over powers between Delhi and Centre is affecting development
United Resident Joint Action Force (URJA) president Atul Goyal
United Resident Joint Action Force (URJA) president Atul GoyalPhoto | Parveen Negi

As the campaign for the Lok Sabha election heats up in the national capital and political parties put forward their agenda, members of the United Resident Joint Action Force (URJA), a consortium of the city’s 2,500 Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), visited the The New Indian Express office on the discussion on a range of issues including pollution, parking, water scarcity and property taxes. During the conversation, URJA President Atul Goyal said the association released a manifesto and asked the candidates to implement the suggested demands.


Ashish Srivastava: URJA is demanding full UT status to Delhi at a time when the opposition is asking for full statehood. Why?

Goyal: Full statehood is a political stunt. Nowhere in the world is the capital of a country a State. What we suggest is to create a corporation for each district and a council instead of a government.

Shahid Faridi: The state government complains that not much is in its hands, and this is a key reason for a tiff with the Centre. What are your comments?

Goyal: This is one key reason why we say Delhi can never be a State. If you remember, in 2013-14, when the Kejriwal government came into power, the first tussle with the Center was on rights and privileges and operations. They (the AAP government) flagged that if the accused is a central government employee, then the state government has the authority to arrest the person without obtaining clearance from the competent authority.

Ujwal Jalali: Parking is a serious problem, and fatal brawls have been reported on parking issues. What is the solution?

Goyal: MCD is supposed to do the surveys with experts’ help, and the state government issues notifications for the parking plans. Brawls happen when people don’t find space for parking. The needs are different in residential and commercial areas. In residential areas, the vehicles move out during the day, while in commercial areas, vehicles move in during the day. So a plan should be made accordingly. Moreover, the government is not proactively developing parking spaces in market areas. The MCD had to create 50 parking lots in different areas of Delhi, but they exist only in three markets.

Amit Agarwal: We can encourage residents to share their parking spaces with neighbours based on the differential timings of their vehicular use. There are other solutions, like parking vehicles at nearby malls at night.

Parvez Sultan: How can RWA’s play a role in policymaking? An earlier concept of Resident Welfare Councils had flopped.

Goyal: No, it did not flop. It went very well for a year and a half. Then, MCD was trifurcated. And then the political will was not there. One municipal corporation agreed, while the others disagreed. There was no uniformity. Regarding policy making, the stakeholders are consulted in the formulation of any policy. But who are the stakeholders? I will explain with an example. There are police station-level committees that should have a member from the RWA, but instead, we have representatives from political parties. So, the problems residents face have are to come to the table.

Mukesh Ranjan: The summer season is here, and the water crisis has long been an issue. What is your view on this?

Goyal: We already have a deficiency in supply, and on top of that, the wastage is massive. For example, several people use drinking water for gardening instead of recycled water. Then, there is leakage in the pipelines, leading to wastage. Unlike electricity, the water supply to houses must be adequately monitored and billed, and many households need water meters.

Shahid: Do you think water services should be privatised?

No, we are not in favour of privatisation, as we have seen in the cases of DISCOMs. We are saying that these are basic necessities, and the state should take responsibility and develop them. At times during the rainy season, the streets get flooded. We need to develop resources to store excess water and channel it. Money is received in grants for rainwater harvesting but is not spent adequately.

Shahid: So rainwater harvesting is a potential solution to water deficiency, and is there enough space for this?

Goyal: Rainwater harvesting is the only solution, and there is no space crunch, but there is a need for more intention. Gardens can easily be utilised for rainwater harvesting. One of our RWAs has implemented this. The water used in the Continental Hotel was reused in a park. It’s lush green, uses wastewater after recycling, and has no foul smell.

Ashish: You have mentioned RWAs act in the manifesto. What will be your demands? Are you seeking financial and administrative powers? Is it similar to the Bhagidari scheme initiated during the Sheila Dixit regime?

Goyal: We are not asking for any financial power at all. RWAs are registered with the Societies’ Registration Act of 1860, like any other NGO or as a society. However, the roles of the RWAs are totally different. In all Centre and the state policies, RWA is a crucial stakeholder in implementation. What we demand is to define the definition of an RWA with its roles and responsibilities.

Ifrah Mufti: Last week, the Delhi government informed that 47 km of unpaved roads had been revamped, reducing dust pollution. However, 420 km of roads remain. Can revamping the roads help reduce Delhi’s dust pollution?

Goyal: Dust pollution currently contributes 38 per cent to air pollution. The primary reason is that during scavenging and cleaning, the dust gets compiled on the roadside and never gets picked up. So when the vehicles passed through these stretches, they blew the dust which remained suspended in the air. Look at the manner how construction is being done by Metro today. Earlier it was so planned that we never found dust during construction as the sites were sanitised. Now, they don’t seem to care.

Rajesh Thakur: Your views on dog menace?

Goyal: The issue is that the government bodies need to implement the sterilisation and vaccination for street dogs. The funds are not being utilised fully. There is no data on the allocation of funds and their utilisation.

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