In this Idea Exchange, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit speaks about lessons learnt after the gang rape and why the state government should have control over the police. This session was moderated by Rakesh Sinha of The Indian Express
Rakesh Sinha: Tell us about your early years in Delhi—you went to school here and college?
Delhi went through very traumatic experiences—Partition, the deaths of big leaders. Mahatma Gandhi was killed near where I used to live in Delhi. We heard the three shots that killed him and nobody knew what had happened. Delhi had a very small population. There were broad roads and more open spaces—you could count the cars in the city. The nicest part of Delhi is that you have never seen all of it. The culture keeps changing here, from a Dilliwala culture to a Punjabi culture and now to an almost Bihari culture. It’s a very vibrant city. Earlier, it belonged to nobody and nobody wanted to belong to it. But now it belongs to everybody and everyone wants to come here. As a city, it’s not easy to develop, though: Gurgaon and Noida have got land but Delhi does not have that kind of land, so expansion is restricted. From a small-scale industry and crafts city, Delhi has become a knowledge city, a service city.
Rakesh Sinha: Were you surprised by the way Delhi reacted to the gang rape?
No, I wasn’t surprised by the public outrage. What did surprise me was the act itself. I didn’t expect a civilised city to behave like that. But the outrage was very natural, very emotional. I think we have learnt many lessons from it. Hopefully, Delhi will become a safer city.
Maneesh Chhibber: You have constantly been asking the central government for control over Delhi police. Why do you believe the police should be under you?
There have been studies on Delhi’s administrative set-up and they have said that the police should be under the state government’s control. I don’t think any state government can have the wherewithal to take on the security needs of the VVIPS and diplomats who live in Delhi. But where normal policing in Delhi is concerned, it should be with the state government. At the time of the gang rape, I raised certain issues: how was it that a policeman can reach a person’s house in five minutes when a window is broken but took so long