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‘Metro man’ Sreedharan warns PM of bankruptcy after AAP’s free ride for women plan

Earlier this month, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced free metro rides and free bus rides for women in Delhi, in a populist move that comes ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.

SNS | New Delhi |

Former Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) Chairman E Sreedharan has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him not to agree to the Delhi government’s proposal of free rides for women in the Metro.

Sreedharan said such a decision would set an alarming precedent for all Metros in the countries.

He said, “If ladies are to be given free travel concession in Delhi Metro, it would set an alarming precedent for all other Metros in the country.”

Popularly known as the ‘Metro man’, Sreedharan in his letter dated June 10 also said that such a concession would lead to immediate demands from “more deserving sections like students, handicapped, senior citizens and others”.

He further wrote that the Delhi government’s argument that revenue losses would be reimbursed to DMRC is a “poor solace”.

He said, “the amount involved is about 1,000 crore per annum today. This will go on increasing as the metro network expands and with further fare hikes on the metro succeeding governments of Delhi will not be able to pay this subsidy”.

He further said that Delhi Metro is a joint venture of Government of India and Government of Delhi and that one shareholder cannot take a unilateral decision for one section of the community and push Delhi Metro into inefficiency and bankruptcy.

Calling such concessions as a “disease”, Sreedharan wrote that it will spread fast to all other metros in the country making them dependent on state governments for subsidies.

In a suggestion to the Delhi government, the former DMRC chief said that it could pay directly to women commuters the cost of their travel rather than make travel free on the metro.

Earlier this month, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced free metro rides and free bus rides for women in Delhi, in a populist move that comes ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.

Read | Arvind Kejriwal announces free metro, bus rides for women in Delhi

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Kejriwal said, “On all DTC buses, cluster buses and metro trains women will be allowed to travel free of cost so that they have safe travel experience and can access modes of transport which they were not able to, due to high prices.”

However, the scheme is voluntary and women can choose to pay for the travel.

The AAP chief said that the rule will be implemented in the next 2-3 months.

The Delhi government and the Centre are 50:50 equity partners in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

Kejriwal said that the Delhi government will bear the expenses and will not have to take the approval of the Centre for this.

Meanwhile, Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said he has written to Sreedharan telling him that the Delhi Metro was already running in losses. It’s carrying capacity is 40 lakh passengers every day but presently it is carrying only 25 lakh, he said.

Claiming that the proposal of free travel for women will be beneficial for Delhi Metro, Sisodia said, “its ridership will increase and fares will come down. If the Delhi government pays the fare of women commuters, Delhi Metro should be happy with it.”

On Wednesday, Kejriwal announced that the DMRC had submitted a concrete proposal on the scheme to make public transport free for women and has given the government two options.

Kejriwal said one of the proposals “is a long-term plan that will take at least one year to implement and will involve changing the DMRC’s software, tokens and cards. However, the second option is for a shorter period – a stop-gap arrangement.”

As per the second option, “women will be able to purchase tokens at the ticket windows and automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs) by simply sharing their destination. There will be a separate entry gate for women with those tokens, but exit gates will remain common. The DMRC will not need to change their software”.

(With agency inputs)