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The Azadpur-Prembari Pul elevated corridor and Kejriwal’s claims

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The Azadpur-Prembari Pul flyover road was inaugurated on 10 November 2015. It was celebrated as a unique project that used less money (various reports suggest expense of Rs 140 – Rs 150 crore) than estimated (Rs 247 crore). Media also celebrated Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Union Minister Harsh Vardhan congratulating previous Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for initiating the project. However Kejriwal smartly added that only 20-30 percent of the work was completed by the Dikshit government and that the remaining was done by AAP government as shown here. He also claimed this as evidence of an ‘honest government’ as shown here. Because Delhi was under Central government rule through the Lieutenant Governor for a good 12 months, this raises some questions about Kejriwal’s and media’s claims. Let us do some investigations.

Azadpur-Prembari Pul corridor project was initiated by the Sheila Dikshit government. Both Kejriwal and Harsh Vardhan have also said the same thing and facts also prove this – so that’s very clear. Construction started in July 2013. Dikshit government ended in December 2013, followed by the famous 49 day Kejriwal government. This was followed by President’s rule from February 2014 to February 2015, for a whole year. Now let us examine Kejriwal’s claim – as per media reports, he claimed that 20-30% work of the corridor was done during Dikshit’s time and the rest (70-80%) was done during Kejriwal’s time. This can be possible only if 0% work was done by the PWD during President’s rule. In other words, the PWD under the Lieutenant Governor’s rule stopped constructing the flyover and restarted it as soon as AAP came to power again. Though plausible, the question is, how likely is it realistically? The answer for this can be given by the PWD, but I don’t have access to all their documents. For argument sake, let’s agree with Kejriwal. However, a screenshot of Delhi PWD website as shown below says that 64% of work was completed in March 2015 at an expense of Rs. 94.35 crores. aap-flyoverIf we believe the PWD website, only 36 % was remaining to be completed by November 2015 and was probably completed at an expense of approximately Rs 48 crores. But 36% is very different from 80%. So did Kejriwal lie? Or did media mis-report him? Both media and Kejriwal cannot be right at the same time.

Another implication of Kejriwal’s claim is that the lower expense of the project was because his government was honest. While even 36% of the remaining work could have been corrupted and probably wasn’t is a good thing about his government. But is it right to not acknowledge the ‘honesty’ of previous governments under which 64% of the work was done? Interestingly, a report in Dailypioneer shown here says that 28 per cent of the cost reduction was possible due to change in technology used in the project, 6 per cent in the bidding process and the remaining 66 per cent due to fall in cement and steel prices. Of course it can be argued that dishonest officials and politicians would have stolen the money saved from lower cement and steel prices but is that enough to claim that the saving was all due to ‘an honest government’?

Please don’t get me wrong. Being able to complete a project at a cost much less than expected is a fantastic achievement. And let us all hope that more projects will have a similar fate. But shouldn’t the facts be presented to the people as they are? Let us excuse politicians from telling the truth and grant them the liberty to manipulate facts. But shouldn’t main stream media be more responsible and do some fact finding? Or is that not part of journalism?Does modern Indian journalism only involves printing whatever material is provided by a news agency and manipulating facts for vested interests?

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