What was your approach to being chief minister?
My approach to the administration in Delhi was to act upon, do and create based on the demand of the people living in the state. For instance, if one lives in a shanty, one’s major priority will be water. But, someone living in a posh area will prioritise electricity, cleanliness and so on. Hence, I tried to fulfill the demands raised by different sections of the people.
What measures did you take as chief minister to help Delhi become more inhabitable?
When I took charge as the chief minister in December 1998, Delhi was facing severe power outages. So, the crisis was our first priority to address. By 2001, we had given the power sector to private sector entrepreneurs to get uninterrupted power supply.
Then we started working to prevent environmental pollution. Duly, we made it mandatory to use compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of fossil fuels as the main source of energy in the transport sector. Now all motorised vehicles in Delhi are running by CNG, helping to cut the pollution level significantly. It is magically reducing the air pollution.
At that time, our opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in the central government. We managed to do it all because I did not consider Delhi as a place for a certain community; rather it is for all the people in the country.
What obstructions did you face when you tried to privatise the power sector?
We went for the privatisation of the power sector for the convenience of the city dwellers. In the beginning, we had to face resistance from the workers of the state-run power company. But, we managed overcome the situation through subsidies.
Delhi still provides the cheapest power in all of India. But, the power prices were a bit higher at the outset. However, we brought the prices under control by paying subsidy. For example, we paid a Rs.50 subsidy against each unit of electricity worth Rs. 3.
Delhi - just like Dhaka - was known for its traffic congestion. How did you ease this?
We reduced the traffic congestion by constructing a number of flyovers. Presently, Delhi has 48 flyovers, but the number was at best four when I came to power. So, it is flyovers that eased the traffic congestion problem greatly.
Metro rail is (also) a very good choice as it does not cause pollution. It impressively helped Delhi reduce traffic pressure on its streets. We started metro rail construction in 2001 and, to date, we have 240 kilometres of metro rail tracks. Currently, 45,000 commuters are using metro rail.
How successful was the Delhi Department of River Cleaning which you introduced to ensure safe water from surface sources like Yamuna River (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh)?
To be frank, our river cleaning department did not succeed. Yamuna flows to Delhi from far away and before reaching it, the river’s water gets badly polluted. That is why it is an uphill task to treat the highly-polluted water and it is also not possible to do the same at the source of the Yamuna.
How can Dhaka city become more liveable through the prevention of pollution and traffic congestion?
My first suggestion, as we did in Delhi, is to interact with people. You have to talk to all sections of people, be it from slums or apartments, to get a clear idea about their priority.
Then you have to act upon their choices.