Sheila Dikshit speaks exclusively to NDTV: Full transcript

Sheila Dikshit speaks exclusively to NDTV: Full transcript

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New Delhi:  In an exclusive interview to NDTV's Barkha Dutt, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit talks about how she is no longer nervous and that Delhi is ready for the Games.

Here is the full transcript of the interview.

Barkha Dutt: Sheila Dikshit, now just not even 24 hours to go for the Games, how nervous are you?

Sheila Dikshit: I am not nervous anymore, quite confident because everything is over now.

Barkha Dutt: You said not nervous any more... it's been a harrowing few weeks?

Sheila Dikshit:
Not few weeks, it's been a harrowing 6-8 months. We are catching up with time... the rains were no help, but otherwise they were good for Delhi... we are delightful they have happened for the long run but then it has been very tough and then everyone knows the diversity of authorities here - to bring them to a united way of functioning - that itself was a challenging part.

Barkha Dutt: Was that one of the points of chaos, there were simply too many cooks - the proverbial 'too many cooks' - to spoil the broth?

Sheila Dikshit: Yes of course that was a thing, but I think even though everybody knew that this was their job - I mean they need not step out of it, or step into somebody else's - but still you know to coordinate it - for example, I've made a road but then the police wallah says no, I need a wire or I need to build a new traffic junction, he goes digging, the MTNL comes and says I'll also go digging... so all my work goes wrong. So these kind of very irritating things were happening. If it was under one kind of authority, they would be able to coalesce and see but that was a big drawback. But we have overcome it.

Barkha Dutt:
Do you feel that, in a sense, too much of the focus has come onto you but not many of the other related 'proverbial cooks' as there were, the ministries (sports, urban development), NDMC (under Home), Lieutenant Governor's office involved? Yet the focus has been always Suresh Kalmadi and Sheila Dikshit.

Sheila Dikshit:
Suresh Kalmadi of course is the IOC, so he cannot get away. My situation is that I happen to be the elected face of Delhi and everybody, every study of Delhi says that there are too many authorities - the Home Ministry looks after law and order and I have nothing to do with it. But if there is traffic chaos and you are stuck in a traffic jam, the first face that comes in front of your eyes is Sheila Dikshit, that "she's caused the traffic jam". But I have nothing to do with it.

So here we are in a very special kind of state where the chief minister is the chief minister; he or she is the face the people will look at to blame and to resolve their problem also, whatever they may be and yet that person has really no authority.

So it's a system which does not have one line of authority or command. That's why. And I knew that all along, I said when it comes to the blame everybody is going to say Sheila Dikshit has done it. No matter who it is.

Barkha Dutt: You are saying you knew this would happen? You knew it will all land up to your door then. So in the run up to the Games, did you ask for this one line of command? Did you say it is not going to happen like this?

Sheila Dikshit: No, I don't think, I'd never asked for it as I knew it wouldn't be given, so was no point. I have been warning them of this from past 10-12 years, that this city must have a proper command or Central authority or an authority on which you could either give the blame or the kudos.

Barkha Dutt: The Games Village, that perhaps brought the single most negative image of these Games for those pictures that leaked all over and really made us look like we could not get our act together. The Games Village was under the DDA, and directly under the Chairmanship of the Lieutenant Governor. When you first went into the village how bad were things?

Sheila Dikshit:
To say the least, it was just frightening; we thought we would never be able to get things ready. There were 6,000- 8,000-plus odd flats to be got ready, rooms were to be got ready for people but it was a total mess - there was no water system working, electricity was not reliable. Some would have their power, some would not, lifts were not working, the basement was almost drowned. It was filthy, there were dogs all over. It was terrible and unfortunately all of us were complacent about it because we all were told that at all the meetings of the Group of Ministers (GoM), which was created by the Prime Minister, it was said that everything was fine in the village.

Barkha Dutt:
So how did they explain it, when you went to this village, when you saw the state?

Sheila Dikshit:
Nobody asks anybody for explanations and I don't think this is the time for explanations. I've realised that. Then we just said, "Yes, there are almost 24 hours round the clock." In four days we were all able to change it around, get the beds there, the sheets there. The furniture was not good; the glass panes were broken; the balconies were supposed to have glass borders but we found there were no glasses in some of them so anybody could fall off. So the state of affairs was very terrible. But there's no point talking about it. We've managed to turn it around in four or five days.

Barkha Dutt:
You were given the village on September 22nd, and a week literally to turn it around...

Sheila Dikshit: Ya, by 27-28 it was all right.  We posted about 34 of our own officers, my own staff personnel, all shifted there. So we got things together. The DDA or the EMAAR MGF, whoever it is who has built those flats, I think the real fault lay with them. They hadn't bothered when they handed over the flats and the IOC when they took over. They should also have been responsible...

Barkha Dutt: Who is accountable - the EMAAR MGF, DDA or the OC?

Sheila Dikshit:
I think all three. We just stepped in because we were asked to do something and that's about all. And today when I walk out of that it's no more my baby at all.

Barkha Dutt:
And you think you will be given the credit of turning it all around?

Sheila Dikshit: I don't know, I am not looking for credit Barkha. This was far too serious a matter. All of you were going hammer and tong, and perhaps rightly so. And there were people angry with things.

Barkha Dutt: Weren't you angry when you saw the state of the Village? Weren't you ashamed as an Indian to see it like that?

Sheila Dikshit:
I think it was a bit of both plus the enormity of the challenge, I just didn't know where we will start where we will stop.

Barkha Dutt: You say all three groups are responsible. Did you bring up the state of affairs with Suresh Kalmadi, with the Lieutenant Governor who chairs the DDA, with EMAAR MGF which was a private company?

Sheila Dikshit: No.

Barkha Dutt: Why not?

Sheila Dikshit:
This was not the time to say all this. When we went in, some of the players had already started arriving and they were the ones who really brought all this out.

Barkha Dutt:
One of the things that's been observed is that the Games were virtually outsourced by the government to the Organising Committee (OC). And had the government stepped in earlier - like you did this time with the village, like the Army did with the bridge, like with the ASIAD Games - you actually needed the government to run the Games, and instead it was given to the OC. It was outsourced.

Sheila Dikshit: No, the OC is supposed to run the Games. But the government - whether it was the DDA, the Delhi government, the CPWD or the Sports Authority of India (SAI) - we were given the venues to be done. Like the whole city's get up that's there, or whatever you may call it. All that is our responsibility. The OC is supposed to take over after you have finished a stadium, for instance. Or the Village. Anything connected directly with the Games is with the OC. Now, where the OC also faulted was, it either delayed the taking over or when it took over like for instance the Games Village, it was not careful enough to see that these were the problems there. For instance most of stadia in Delhi - the Delhi government stadiums were handed over in June-July; in August, most of the stadia of the Central government were handed over to them. The flyovers were done - the most difficult ones at Barapullah and Zameengad - were done 10 days ago. So, it was not that we were out of time or anything. But the OC has not been able to put its act together. There was chaos there, that is why I think we were asked to step in.

Barkha Dutt: I am just asking couldn't that have happened earlier? Because the PM did convene several meetings, you also attended some of them.

Sheila Dikshit:
I think it was the last meeting which he convened which I attended and went and saw the village and I said this.

Barkha Dutt: Did you come back and tell the Prime Minister?

Sheila Dikshit: Yes, I told the whole GoM there. I said, "Sir, this is what it is. There was fecal matter all over, the dogs are there. What do we do? We had nothing to do with it." I think it was after that, that he took a decision, "All right, let somebody oversee the Games." So then the Cabinet Secretary and I took it over.

Barkha Dutt: And yet when the images went out, when so many people said it's unlivable - that was not an exaggerations for the state?

Sheila Dikshit: No, it was not. I think more than 60 per cent were really unlivable.

Barkha Dutt:
So when you got the Village one week ago, 60 per cent of it was unlivable?

Sheila Dikshit:
Yes, absolutely. I would say that as a rough estimate - could be more, could be just about a little less. One could not walk in a room and say, "Aaah! This is satisfactory!"

Barkha Dutt: Do you believe what has, in a sense, dogged us with these Games is our chalta hai sort of attitude? That we can get it done as a country at the last moment? Because you are also saying that you have done it in a week. And this speaks to what M S Gill told Parliament that this is like a Punjabi wedding which Mike Hooper objected to. Should a Sports Minister have said that?

Sheila Dikshit: All that I know is, everybody worked hard. It could have been done 15-20 days earlier or a month earlier. But to think you will get prepared for a game one year before, I think it is neither fair nor correct.

Barkha Dutt: But one week before is a little different from one year ago...

Sheila Dikshit: How does it make a difference, when it should be in use, it should be in perfect order. Whether you make it 3 hours before or 10 hours before. Also depending on the importance of the facility you are providing. It does not matter as long it is all there when it is needed.

Barkha Dutt:
Mike Hooper says responsibility of the Games is purely India's; that he and the CWG federation have no responsibility. Do you agree with it?

Sheila Dikshit: No, no, how can you say that? If it had no responsibility, then don't interfere, get out of it and say let the government or an organisation run it. They say the tickets are their responsibility, the running of the Games - the timer and the LED screens, electronic gadgets - are their responsibility. Looking after the stadiums, when it is given to them is their responsibility, which includes looking after the washrooms, the food and everything. So, we, just as a government, hand it over to them - that here's the building, according to your specifications. Now run it. You don't just walk into a house, you have to live in it.

Barkha Dutt:
Have these comments been offensive?

Sheila Dikshit: No, I don't think so and in any case I don't pay much attention to all this... I have a job to do. Afterwards you know I thought all these accusations that were made were right in the sense that there was a doubt. Why should accusations be made, when there isn't doubt? But to accuse somebody finally - I think Prime Minister has said that everything will be looked into later on.

Barkha Dutt: So that does suggest, that even though as a country we all hope that the Games will go off magnificently, once the Games are over, what went wrong and who was responsible should and will be looked at.

Sheila Dikshit: Do you know I'm told that after the ASIAD Games, Parliament discussed the ASIAD - the ifs, buts, expenditures, the income and outcome an the income for 2-3 years. I am sure they will do the same. There will be all CAG reports, CVC reports, everything is under scrutiny... this I can tell you. There are these checks and balances, there's this vigilance commissions. All of you blew the vigilance commission out of proportion. Why? They were only doing what they always do - that is keep on routine check.

Barkha Dutt: The Central Vigilance Commission said that prices had been inflated for example...

Sheila Dikshit: No, if they had been inflated... suppose I want to buy a chair. There is a tender system for it to buy the cheapest of that design. What is price inflation? Because everything is not the same. A bridge could be 6-km long, it could be 3-km long. So there are many factors that go into it.

Barkha Dutt:
You used a phrase that 'everybody will be under scrutiny'. Do you believe that after the Games are over, and these inquiries are set into motion, that for the mess that took place in the run up, heads should roll and somebody should pay the price?

Sheila Dikshit: I didn't say everybody, I said everything would be under scrutiny, because there is this CAG, the parliamentary committee, there is this CVC, CBI - there are so many things you know which are going to look into the matters. And if there has been anything wrong, for instance the bridge that fell down - I am told a British company designed it. They gave us these hooks and said the bridge would hold on to it. Now two versions are coming out - unofficial versions which they could be rumours - that the hooks were not right, didn't have right kind of strength; or when you covered up the bridge, the covering was more weightier than the hooks could take in. Now which is right and which is wrong I don't know. In three weeks time we will get to know whether we should blame that company which gave us these hooks, or is it one of our own people who messed it up.

Barkha Dutt: Then the Indian Army comes up and build the new bridge in 5 days. That means when we want to get it done we can.

Sheila Dikshit:
Please remember, Indian Army is far more equipped for these things. We also have built this road, like the UP link road which we opened in almost just three months.

Barkha Dutt:
Do you regret what you said in the aftermath of the bridge collapse? Because people were very critical that it wasn't meant for the aam aadmi, it was meant for the athletes, it was meant for the spectators, as if to suggest it was OK if the aam aadmi walks on it.

Sheila Dikshit: No, it was meant for the athletes, but I didn't mean it was the aam aadmi, what I meant was, which I think as just twisted, that the Barahpullah road and this bridge for the next 15 days is not open to you and me but only for the athletes and managers. Only after that it will become a road which will be part of Delhi.

Barkha Dutt: So were you misunderstood on that comment?

Sheila Dikshit: No, it was misconstrued, I mean, they didn't understand it. So that bridge primarily was only for these athletes, to be able to park their things, walk over that and come in to the stadium.

Barkha Dutt: Do you feel let down by all the other players - the other ministries and the government - do you feel that in a sense they have not enabled you as a face of Delhi, to put up a good face.

Sheila Dikshit: No Barkha, I don't blame anybody, because everybody was doing their job. Look at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium or Indira Gandhi stadium, they are absolutely first rate... super. So, it's not a blame game, certainly not.

Barkha Dutt: But was there the frustration about what was happening?

Sheila Dikshit: No, there were absolute jitters, what are we going to do?

Barkha Dutt: Sleepless nights?

Sheila Dikshit:
Yes, sleepless nights, jitters and nervousness because it's not just his/her or any department's pride but the whole country, the whole nation.

Barkha Dutt:
Didn't Lalit Bhanot make it worse by his comment on the standards of hygiene being different?

Sheila Dikshit:
It was a thoughtless comment. I don't think it should have been made. But it's his view and I don't want to react to that.

Barkha Dutt: You have described yourself...the conditions you found in the village, preceding that there are very serious corruption allegations being scrutinised now by the enforcement.

Sheila Dikshit: I am not interested and am not going to answer on this.

Barkha Dutt: No, why is that Media is to be blamed?

Sheila Dikshit:
No, I said the media is to be blamed. Did you not see the nice things happening? If you are balanced, which is what good media is meant to be, if you saw that puddle, you also saw the dry rooms in spite of the floods. Not one of you mentioned that in these very trying times, stretched out times, we were also handling a very difficult flood situation. But nobody was drowned or anything happened to them... we fed them all, we did everything. Nobody spoke of it. But it wasn't damage to me. My damage whatever is there or not there is an individual's damage... it damaged our country's image - that we were bashing ourselves out. Everyone was saying that India was not capable.

Barkha Dutt:
Did you feel at any point like giving up?

Sheila Dikshit:
I didn't feel like giving up. It charged us more... we created a bus depot for 1000 buses, the largest in the world, in 16 months' time... nobody one spoke about it.

Barkha Dutt: I think that it was accurate that maybe there was a public mood that was created that became very nervous about whether the Games would actually happen. Another point which has come up specially related to Delhi... that we are trying to hide our poverty, our street children, our beggars?

Sheila Dikshit: No, we are not. We are taking it as an occasion that all right, instead of wandering around, we have got homes for them. Every beggar can be put into a home and every child can be put in a home. We make night shelters in the winter - 70-odd night shelters...they are there. They can be used right now. Even if we were trying to hide something, figures speak for themselves - the UN or our own country's various pamphlets or the Planning Commission's. We are not trying to hide but you know that you are receiving guests. Yes, Delhi has been decorated - for Commonwealth Games, for celebration...lot of things are there. Don't you have the right to light up your house on Diwali or whatever festival you may celebrate and are you trying to hide your poverty at that point of time?

Barkha Dutt: Will these people have shelter even after these Games are over?

Sheila Dikshit:
Of course there is a program under JNNURM where you have to give shelter.

Barkha Dutt:
But at normal times, we do see street children at the streets.

Sheila Dikshit: Of course we do. Do you know many of them come from across our state? They come from Ghaziabad, Faridabad. It's something we need to attend to. The demand of jobs that Delhi gave because of the Games, nobody thought of that.

Barkha Dutt: But is there a glossing over of the underbelly of India?

Sheila Dikshit: No, I don't think there has been. You go to Chandini Chowk, it is exactly as it is. Connaught Place was overdue, Chandini Chowk is overdue. You go and have a look at it now. Is it something bad to like that, by making it look more prettier? Is it bad to plant trees where the whole thing looks like a desert? Is it bad to bring drinking water to people?

Barkha Dutt: Not at all, but when there are people involved...
Sheila Dikshit: I hear people saying that we want to go out of the city when the Games are on. I sometimes wonder doesn't their conscience tell them anything?

Barkha Dutt: Mani Shanker Aiyer said that and he left...

Sheila Dikshit: Whoever it may be. I live in this city, you live in this city. You know you are different from your maid servant and you try to help her. Nowhere is the Marxism or utopian you call it there... we live with it.

Barkha Dutt: But that is different from the poor being bundled off into shelters because we want our city to look as if we don't have poor people.

Sheila Dikshit: Nobody is trying to do that. It is just that we are trying to see all of them get a shelter... I hope this will be a turning point. I have just opened a shelter. It's our job and ultimately we have to do it. But when you get a guest at your house and when the eyes of the world are going to be on this city, would you not like it to look like a nice city? We have made the city green, we brought out the monuments, the heritage. Is it wrong to display the heritage? we has it been at the expense of somebody else? No.

Barkha Dutt: What about athletes pulling out with worries of dengue, malaria? Today we also had a report that an athlete moved out of the village because he may have contracted dengue. Is it an exaggeration fear for you?

Sheila Dikshit: Of course.

Barkha Dutt: But it has been one of the worst spells of dengue in Delhi this time.

Sheila Dikshit: Yes, naturally because the rains were one of the worst; it was two months of continuous rain in Delhi. But I may also tell you that yesterday I got to know that the number of athletes - 6000 plus - who have come to Delhi have exceeded Melbourne. Would you not like to talk about that? Highlight the point. Now, dengue was there... I don't want to be rude but if you see dengue figures in other countries like Bangkok and Singapore, which are supposed to be much cleaner cities, it is much lower in India. Dengue is something which happened and we did whatever we could. There were very, very few deaths compared to the population that we have, compared to the cleanliness norms we follow. But to say that we tried to be callous about it, we were certainly not.

Barkha Dutt: You talked about the people who want to go out of the country or the city when Games happen of not having a conscience. One of them is your own party member Mani Shankar Aiyer. He was Sports Minister for two years. Are you upset or amused?

Sheila Dikshit: I am neither, I am indifferent. I just feel pained about the remarks that many people make like they are going for an annual holiday, this time of October-November, that they are am not going to stay here. I feel bad. Why you have to say these things with pride? Even if you are going on a holiday it doesn't matter. Why do have to say it with pride and blame the Games for it?

Barkha Dutt: Are you going to sleep well tonight? And are the jitters finally gone?

Sheila Dikshit: I have slept well always because I'm too tired mentally and physically not to be able to sleep. That's the good part of it.

Barkha Dutt: And you are hoping and crossing your fingers that everything goes well...

Sheila Dikshit: Yes, I'm hoping and crossing my fingers. I hope tomorrow we will have a good and memorable Opening Ceremony and that will relax us. Let the Games take on.

Barkha Dutt: We also hope it'll be a great Games. Thank you so much!

Sheila Dikshit: Sure it will be. Thank you!

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