“Two-thirds of Delhi’s passenger bus fleet will be electric vehicles in three years”
Shah has been advising the Delhi government since 2016 on environmental, transport, education and fiscal transparency reforms. With ₹Delhi’s 75,800 crore budget for FY23 aimed at creating 2 million jobs over the next five years, Shah spoke of redeveloping about 25 industrial areas, encouraging urban agriculture, ensuring standards of safety for electric vehicles, increasing the number of Mohalla clinics to 1,000 and rolling out a Delhi Shopping Festival among other initiatives. Edited excerpts:
Can you explain some of the changes that are already in place and those that are in the works?
If I have to recall some of the main reforms, it is clear that education was the fundamental transformation that took place. Today, most of the private schools in Delhi do not boast of the kind of infrastructure that public schools and public schools in Delhi have. This government invests a lot in teacher training. We send our teachers abroad. The type of curriculum reforms introduced include Happiness Curriculum, Entrepreneurship Curriculum and Deshbhakti Curriculum. We find that for the past four consecutive years, public schools in Delhi have performed better in 12th standard than private schools. Whether it’s JEE or NEET, public school students who have cleared it in record numbers.
In health system, Delhi has a functional three tier health system with Mohalla clinics. Nearly 550 Mohalla clinics are operational. They will reach the thousand in a few years. We have 38 very good hospitals, which provide totally free care, free medicine, free diagnosis and free surgery.
It is a question of giving the right budgetary allocation but above all, the political will to go all the way and to ensure that the solutions are implemented on the ground. In the field of transport, many efforts are being made to increase the efficiency of the public transport system.
What are they?
Delhi generally lacks buses. When this government started, I think we had about 5,500 buses. Today we have 7,200. This includes both DTC and cluster fleet buses. The number of DTC buses is about half. From now on 3400-3500 would be DTCs and 3800 would be cluster buses. It will be 11,000 by 2025.
We are working on electric mobility and clean mobility because that is a big part of our vision for Delhi’s future transport system. First, the mainstay must be public transport. You have to make sure that people of all classes in this society find it comfortable to use both subways and buses. Right now we have 7200 buses. The deployment of electric buses in the city has just started. The Delhi government has pledged that all future purchases will be electric vehicles. By the time we reach 11,000 buses, some of the buses in the current fleet of 7,200 will retire and these will also be replaced by electric vehicles. We will see buses two-thirds as electric vehicles.
What is the development of electric autorickshaws?
When we launched our EV policy a year and a half ago, we said we wanted Delhi to be India’s EV capital. And we were the first state to set a goal that a quarter of our new vehicles in 2024 should be electric vehicles. We have already reached 12.5%. We are the first state to reach the point where 12.5% of new vehicles sold each month are electric vehicles. Thus, Delhi is already the Indian capital of electric vehicles. 70% of vehicles on the ground in Delhi are two-wheelers and three-wheelers. Our whole policy aims to favor the transition from two-wheelers and three-wheelers to EVs.
There have been incidents where electric two-wheelers have caught fire. Your comments?
This absolutely concerns us. In all countries, safety standards and manufacturing standards are notified centrally. The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and the International Center for Automotive Technology (ICAT) are the bodies that carry out the tests. I think that’s a timely wake-up call. We would be all for national testing agencies and certifying standards agencies adopting the best standards followed by the US and Europe.
Have you raised this issue with the Centre?
No, we didn’t perform at the Center because we know the Center is trying to do that. First, we would like to know what the Center is going to do and we ourselves assess what in addition to the Center we should do. Because at the end of the day, we also give a grant. Delhi cannot stop the sale of a vehicle in Delhi. This only the Center can do. But Delhi may very well decide whether the criterion for determining who receives the subsidy from the Delhi government is Delhi’s taxpayers’ money. So we see if there is something that Delhi as a state government can also do.
For a very long time in Delhi, electric vehicles were driven by electric rickshaws. Now, due to Delhi’s EV policy and our push on two-wheelers, sales of two-wheelers for the first time in the past two months have eclipsed e-rickshaws.
Are you saying that since Delhi offers a substantial amount of subsidy for the purchase of such vehicles, you will only award the subsidy component to vehicles that meet your own criteria?
No, what I’m saying is that we envision that Delhi should do something of that nature. Our first preference would be for the Center to adopt a rigorous regime. Manufacturers are unlikely to adopt certain standards if they are selling in Delhi, and others for outside. In the long term, this is not viable. So we would expect the Center to understand the magnitude of the challenge that arises today on the issue of electric vehicles and to come up with something. We will explore. It’s always there as an option.
What else are you doing for job creation?
The Delhi Shopping Festival is a huge initiative that the Delhi government is taking this year. One of the main thrusts of the Delhi government’s economic program is to bolster demand, rather than saying we would increase credit ties and push supply on the other side.
We kept a budget of ₹250 crores for the iconic retail market redevelopment. This is how demand will strengthen. The Delhi Shopping Festival is all about bringing regional, national and global audiences to Delhi’s markets. We learn from the great examples of Dubai and Singapore. It will be a festive atmosphere throughout the city. We’ll see how many markets can participate in the first year, but it will be a month-long shopping fest in February next year in Delhi where you’ll see a mix of great shopping bargains, deep discounts and lotteries. . There are three pillars of the shopping festival. There’s shopping, there’s entertainment, lots of events, cultural activities, arts, street arts, and then there’s food.
Are there any expenses on your part for these large discounts?
We’ll see. We are investigating whether the government can provide SGST refunds or other incentives. But the bulk of our efforts will be to bring the public, the citizens, to Delhi’s markets during this time and a mix of events and promotions.
Is there anything else on this account, on the job?
There are many things. We are planning to renovate Gandhinagar. We work on urban agriculture and create jobs through urban agriculture. Job creation through our solar policy and our electric vehicle policy will also be part of this. Delhi’s Non-Compliant Industrial Zones are revived for the first time. There are 24-25 non-compliant industrial zones, we will completely redevelop them. There are also works in the existing industrial area.