Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of New Delhi, gave the final keynote address of the Asia Society’s Asian Corporate Conference. She discussed challenges and opportunities that New Delhi faces, her strategies for addressing them, and how these strategies apply to a rapidly urbanizing India.
Ms. Dikshit argued that New Delhi has enough resources, but they must be managed better. There is enough water in India, but distribution must be improved. Electricity is there, but poor management leads to brownouts. Transport is better than it was even three years ago. There is a better metro and air-conditioned buses. Ms. Dikshit talked at length about some of New Delhi’s environmental successes. This includes the massive conversion of automotive vehicles switching to use compressed natural gas, a cheaper and cleaner alternative to gasoline and diesel. She also emphasized the need to develop public transportation- the recently opened Delhi metro is an excellent example of the progress her administration has made.
One lesson in particular can be learned from Delhi. It caters the best health services in Northern India, so many Indians in surrounding areas come to Delhi- approximately 30 per cent of patients served. Similar phenomena occur in education and in other services, causing overcapacity and inefficiency. To remedy this, Ms. Dikshit said that other cities must focus on providing services of equal quality.
Ms. Dikshit also discussed her electoral success at the request of the audience. She has held office for 11 years, a relatively long time in India. She attributed her party’s success due to contact with the people, and seeking to understand the needs of her population.
Delhi’s heritage is among the world’s oldest and most fascinating, and its livability is gradually catching up with the richness of its history. “We have achieved a lot,” said Ms. Dikshit, “but we have a lot more to achieve as yet.”