Slamming Delhi government’s announcement of providing free travel to women in metros and busses former Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) chief E Sreedharan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his “personal intervention” urging him to not agree to the proposal adding that the decision to give concession to one section of the community will push Delhi metro into “inefficiency and bankruptcy”.
Sreedharan, in his letter dated June 10, a copy of which has been reviewed by Hindustan Times, said he had taken a firm decision to not intervene in the working of the Delhi metro after stepping down from the post of managing director. “The recent decision of Delhi government to extend free travel concession to ladies in Delhi metro has forced me to break this decision,” he said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on June 3 had announced women will soon get to travel free in metro and state-run buses. Kejriwal said the free ride offer will be optional, women who can afford it will be able to pay for the ride.
Sreedharan warned this move would also increase the burden of DMRC for the repayment of Japan International Cooperation Agency’s loan.
“When the first section of Delhi metro was to be opened, I had taken a firm and conscious decision that no one would be given any travel concession on Delhi Metro. This stand was taken to maximize revenues so that metro fares could be kept low so as to be affordable to ordinary citizens at the same time metro would make sufficient operational surpluses to pay back the loans taken from JAICA. This stand of Delhi metro was greatly appreciated by all including the then PM Shri Atal Bihar Vajpayee ji…even officers and staff including the managing director of DMRC, when they travel on the metro on official duties purchase tickets,” he said.
Union minister of state (independent charge) for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Puri had last week said the Delhi government had no viable plan on implementing the scheme adding that the state government had made the announcement without drafting a proposal.
Hindustan Times on Friday reported that DMRC, in its proposal submitted to the Delhi government, stated that implementing the scheme would result in an annual loss of around Rs 1560 crore, out of which Rs 11 crore will be incurred in its feeder buses.
“If ladies are to be given free travel concession in Delhi metro, it would set an alarming precedence to all other metros in the country. The argument of Delhi government that the revenue losses would be reimbursed to DMRSC is a poor solace. The amount involved is about 1000 crore per annum today,” Sreedharan wrote.
He also warned, the aforementioned amount would keep on increasing as the metro network expands and with further fare hikes on the metro travel.
“Succeeding governments of Delhi will not be able to play this subsidy. What is worse, once concession is given to one section of the commuters, immediate demands will arise from more deserving sections such as students, handicapped, senior citizen etc. The disease will spread fast to all other metros in the country making them dependent on state governments for subsidies,” he said.
Sreedharan suggested that the state government should instead pay women commuters directly.
“I would earnestly request you not to agree to the Delhi government’s proposal of free travel to ladies in the metro. If Delhi government is so keen to help lady commuters, I would suggest Delhi government can pay directly to the lady commuters the cost of their travel rather than make travel free on the metro,” he added.
Kejriwal on Wednesday announced special ‘pink tokens’ will be provided to allow women free travel on public transport.
“We would also suggest that the Delhi government provides a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) type subsidy to women commuters instead on inconveniencing everyone. We don’t want to go back to the token system anymore which was primitive and also created a lot of hassle. A lot of corruption used to happen with that system. They were suggested by DMRC to provide cards instead but were told the implementation would take much longer. The government should just provide direct subsidy, this scheme will also lead to inconvenience of ladies and is against their dignity as well,” a senior government official said requesting anonymity.
Jun 14, 2019 19:20 IST