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Reforms in health, education will be AAP’s legacy, says Satyendra Jain

IANS | New Delhi |

Reforms in health and education will be the legacy Delhi's AAP government will be known for, Health Minister Satyendra Jain says.

Jain, 49, said the Aam Aadmi Party's dominant focus on the two sectors will force a shift in the political discourse and make other parties talk more forcefully about them.

"This change will be a part of AAP's legacy," Jain said in an interview at his residence. He said the battle against corruption, despite the Delhi government's limited powers, was equally significant.

The AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal will begin its third year in office on February 14.

It was on this day in 2015 that the AAP, for a second time, took power in the national capital after winning a sweeping 67 of the 70 assembly seats.

A Kejriwal confidant, Jain said the focus of the Delhi government was to provide the best possible school education and healthcare facilities free of cost to the people.

The government has set up over 100 Mohalla Clinics where medicines, medical tests and doctors' consultation are available for free. Most have come up in poorer areas though a handful are in middle class colonies.

The government had planned to build 1,000 such clinics by December 31. But that has not happened. The target now set is March 31 but it is unlikely all of them will be functional by then.

Besides these primary healthcare centres, the government also plans to set up 150 polyclinics.

Jain, an architect by profession and a founder-member of AAP, said the aim behind the clinics was to see that only those suffering from very serious ailments ended up going to the already clogged hospitals.

"The main difference between developed and underdeveloped countries is availability of quality health and educational facilities at affordable cost. Our aim is to provide free quality (school) education and healthcare to all, rich or poor," Jain said.

He said the government had taken several steps to improve standards in the normally looked-down-upon government schools by providing more classrooms, sending teachers abroad for training and providing modern amenities.

"If people of a country are healthy and well-educated, they will force the rulers to deliver on all other issues including governance."

Not surprisingly, the AAP showcased its achievements in health and education in Punjab and Goa where it contested the just-ended assembly elections.

"No political party has ever focused so much on these issues in election campaign," Jain said.

Dismissing reports in a section of the media that the AAP – India's youngest political party – would fare poorly in Punjab, Jain said it would win around 100 of the 117 seats.

But he said it was difficult to predict how many seats the AAP would win in Goa.

Asked about the party's future plans if it wins in Punjab or Goa, Jain said: "It will be a rare occasion a party from one state will take power in another state."

Only the Congress, the BJP and the CPI-M rule more than one state in the country.

Alluding to the BJP-led central government, Jain said if "political forces" had let the AAP government function in Delhi "without hurdles after hurdles", it may have never thought of contesting in Punjab.

"We were forced to go to Punjab. If they tell us now that they still won't let us work, then we will even go to Parliament," Jain said.