Thousands spoil durbar debut

KejriwalFrom the roof of the Secretariat’s reception building, Kejriwal told the crowd he had chosen to leave rather than order a lathicharge.TASHI TOBGYAL

The first of Arvind Kejriwal's planned daily janta durbars collapsed an hour after it started Saturday, after a heaving crowd of over 20,000 people threatened to physically swamp the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues, and the meeting teetered on the edge of disintegrating into complete chaos.

Kejriwal and Urban Development Minister Manish Sisodia were forced to retreat into the secretariat building about an hour after the durbar started at 9 am, leaving the other ministers attempting to hear the people's complaints.

The chief minister said he was in danger of being crushed by the crowd, and announced that the durbar was being suspended until the government was able to plan better and put proper arrangements in place.

Standing on the roof of the reception wing of the secretariat, Kejriwal told the crowd behind police barricades: "I accept that there were problems with the arrangements. I am deeply sorry that we could not listen to all your problems. People climbed on to the chair and table at which I was seated, and I could have been crushed if I had not left... We will come back to you with full arrangements and have another janta durbar in four to five days."

"When the crowd became unmanageable, there were two options before me, either to resort to a lathicharge or to talk to the people. I chose the second option. Next time we will have the janta durbar at a stadium," he said.

The chief minister had announced that the entire cabinet would sit outside the Delhi secretariat every Saturday to listen to the people's grievances, and would attempt to solve the urgent problems on the spot. Every weekday, a minister would receive grievances from the public.

A large proportion of the people who thronged the road outside the Delhi government headquarters were contract workers seeking permanent jobs.

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