Governance in Delhi: Collaboration and not Confrontation is the Solution

Delhi being the national capital of a federal country, its governance by Government of National capital territory, Delhi (GNCTD) is shackled by a multiplicity of authorities. It is largely dependent on the Union Ministries and neighbouring states for adequate supply of its basic needs like power, water and even clean air. Its infrastructure has to bear the brunt of rapid urbanisation and huge migration. It has to perform under the critical gaze and scrutiny of the Legislative Assembly, Parliament, National and International organisations, the triple hierarchy of courts and media.

This can be achieved in the context of India being the largest federal democracy in the world, thereby requiring an elected local/ territory government working in tandem and under the control of the Union Government. The National Capital Territory Capital Act 1993 was an attempt to achieve this dual purpose. Concerns of security, need of land by the Union Government, other State Governments and to meet international commitments led to the concept of reserved subject under the direct control of the Union government. Even in respect of subjects transferred to the GNCTD it is subject to the supervision and control of an administrator, namely the Lt. Governor. This system, while essential, fetters the decision making and implementation capacity of GNCTD. It results in friction between the aspirations of the elected Government and its subjugation to the supervisory control of the Lt Governor.

Being the National capital, Delhi is a large trading centre which helps in generating huge revenue for GNCTD. Investment of Capital by the Union Government, its public sector undertakings as well as state governments enriches GNCTD. The city is also home to the country’s top politicians, judges, bureaucrats, media barons, professionals, captains of industry who are alive to and affected by governance in Delhi and therefore ever willing to lend a helping hand. Their support can be harnessed by GNCTD for carrying out improvements in the city. A case in point is filing of a PIL by commander Sinha, a resident, of Delhi, in the Supreme Court, ably argued probono by legal luminary Shri Rajiv Dhawan which often bailed out the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) from the vagaries of the Government of Haryana in getting timely release of water to Delhi under Supreme Court orders.

In spite of limitations mentioned above, the GNCTD could plan and execute many challenging and sophisticated projects on account of its strategy and willingness to forge alliances, by entering into partnerships with the Union and State governments. The construction and operationalization of the Delhi Metro is a shining example of this joint effort. The willingness of GNCTD to shoulder equally with the Union government the funding requirement of constructing the Delhi Metro became a national template. The timely release of Funds by GNCTD even when the Union Government fell short, ensured that the Delhi Metro achieved timely targets. Apart from funds the GNCTD also ensured that the Metro was professionally run and not subjected to any political pressure.

A similar approach helped the GNCTD to meet the challenge of severe pollution choking the city in the beginning of 21st century. The problem was resolved by the following initiatives of GNCTD with collaboration of the Union Government.

Converting the entire public transport fleet of Delhi Transport Corporation to CNG. The entire cost of acquiring a new fleet of CNG buses met by GNCTD. The centre helped in setting up CNG stations.

Carrying out massive plantation drives in his own land, the ridge and also in the Yamuna River Bed, which led to increase in the Green Cover of the City.

ATC losses zooming over 55% leading to severe power cuts had become the norm. Formulation and implementation of power sector reform package, leading to unbundling of production, transmission and distribution of power, setting up of an independent power regulator, and privatisation of distribution through private players, following a transparent process, ensured not only reduction of pollution, but 24-hour uninterrupted power supply in Delhi.

This challenging task was made possible on account of the Chief Minister of Delhi, adopting a collaborative approach and her ability to successfully involve the union power minister and other officials and experts, in finalising the power sector reform package. It is worth recalling that when questions were raised in Parliament regarding the privatisation of power distribution in Delhi the Union Minister for Dis-investment, belonging to a rival political party, stood up to defend the GNCTD.

A similar approach yielded excellent results in the water sector. While pleading for its share in the river Yamuna both at the level of Union Government and in courts. GNCTD reached out to the neighbouring states and offered to underwrite heavy investments in their areas for mutual benefits. It volunteered to pay the proportionate cost involved in the construction of Tehri dam and the strengthening of the Upper Ganga Canal. It assigned the task of construction of water pipelines from Muradnagar in Uttar Pradesh to Sonia Vihar in Delhi, to the UP irrigation department and provided adequate funding for the same. On similar lines GNCTD agreed to fund the entire cost of brick lining, the Yamuna canal from Munak in Haryana to Haiderpur in Delhi, along with the cost of construction of the road along the canal. This collaboration was undertaken by the Chief Ministers belonging to rival political parties. These joint initiatives resulted in additional availability of drinking water by 220 million gallons per day to Delhi.

Struggling with the delays arising from multiplicity of authorities, hindering the improvement of civic infrastructure, GNCTD took the initiative to host the Commonwealth Games 2010 (CWG 2010). The immense challenge can be gauged from the fact that normally construction of a Government school in Delhi takes several years as a process involves getting land allotted from DDA and approval of building plans from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi(MCD) and the Delhi Urban Art Commission(DUAC) .The sagacity of the Chief Minister of Delhi to get the Chief Secretary of GNCTD appointed as chairperson of the Empowered committee of CWG 2010, and his reporting progress concurrently to the Lt. Governor of Delhi, Cabinet Secretary Govt of India and Union Group of Ministers, greatly facilitated speedy clearances from DDA, MCD, DUAC, Union Ministries including Railways, Home and Defence. Implementation of these projects lead to major improvement of the city infrastructure in a time bound manner.

All governments are multilayered , operating concurrently at many levels. The AGMUT cadre officers gain vast experience in various challenging regions of the country and also develop friendly networks due to their ability to facilitate the needs of Union Government officers, lawyers, judges, professionals, etc. They are therefore in a unique position to use this network of powerful friends for resolving the problems of the city.

The Chief secretary of GNCTD is in-charge of both the ‘transferred’ and ‘reserved subjects’ and is the chief advisor not only to the Delhi Cabinet but also to the Lt. Governor as well as Union Government in matters relating to Delhi. His position enables him to cut through the labyrinth of red tape. He is the principal instrument available to the elected Government to achieve its goals and objectives. He is also the head of the entire bureaucracy and can galvanise the entire bureaucracy to perform. GNCTD has benefitted and would continue to benefit immensely by reposing trust and faith in its Chief Secretary.

To conclude, the limitation both constitutional and situational, require the GNCTD not to adopt a confrontational approach in its functioning. GNCTD will have to rely on the twin mantras of developing collaboration and trust with the Union Government, Lt.Governor and neighbouring states. It must empower trust and support its Chief Secretary and bureaucracy to successfully implement its policies.


An alumni of Allahabad University, he joined the IAS in 1977. A widely experienced and respected officer, he has served in Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, NDMC, DDA, DJB. Retired as Chief Secretary GNCTD (Delhi).


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