New Delhi: Opposing the AAP government’s proposed free travel scheme for women in the Delhi Metro trains, its former chief E Sreedharan has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to agree to the proposal as it would set an “alarming precedence”.
He said the”disease” will spread fast to all other metros in the country, making them dependent on state government for subsidies. In a letter to the prime minister, Sreedharan, popularly called ‘Metro Man’, said if the Delhi government is “so keen” to help women commuters, it can pay the cost of their travel directly to them rather than making travel free on metro trains. The proposed move will push the Delhi Metro into “inefficiency and bankruptcy”, he said.
The former Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) chief has also sought Modi’s intervention in the matter. Reacting to Sreedharan’s letter, the ruling AAP said although it disagrees with it, it welcomes his viewpoint on the issue, saying that metro will not suffer any losses due to the proposed scheme. The party also rejected his suggestion for direct bank transfer to beneficiaries. In the letter, Sreedharan said when the first section of the Delhi Metro was to be opened in 2002, he had taken a firm decision that no one would be given travel concession.
Even the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had bought a ticket himself to travel to the station from where the metro’s first section was inaugurated, he said. “I would very earnestly request you sir not to agree to the Delhi government’s proposal of free travel to ladies in the Metro. “If the Delhi government is so keen to help lady commuters, I would suggest it can pay directly to the lady commuters the cost of their travel rather than make travel free on the metro,” Sreedharan said in the letter.
Earlier this month, the Arvind Kejriwal government announced that it would make commute for women in public buses and metro trains free. “Now, 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 the Delhi government that the revenue losses would be reimbursed to the DMRC is a poor solace,” the former DMRC managing director said. The DMRC is a joint venture of the Centre and the Delhi government and one shareholder cannot take a unilateral decision to give concession to one section of the community and push the Delhi Metro into “inefficiency and bankruptcy”, Sreedharan said.
Even officers and staff, including managing director of the DMRC, purchase tickets when they travel on the metro on official duties, he said. Reacting to the issue, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said he was “surprised” and “pained” to read Sreedharan’s letter addressed to the prime minister. “Sir, your stand appears to be a result of misunderstanding about the Delhi government’s proposal. You will appreciate that after completion of Phase-III of the DMRC, its services were designed to have a capacity of daily ridership of four million,” Sisodia said.
The Aam Aadmi Party also issued a statement. “We look forward to addressing Sreedharan’s concerns over our proposal. He believes making metro travel free for women will result in losses and inefficiency in the functioning of the Delhi Metro. “We want to assure him that the Delhi Metro will not suffer any losses since the Delhi government will reimburse the agency for free rides taken by women, thus eliminating the possibility of inefficiency,” AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said in statement.
It stated that according to the former DMRC chief, the Delhi government should transfer the subsidy amount directly into accounts of travellers. “This is not a practical solution. There is no way to determine precisely how many women will use public transport, for what distance, for how many days, therefore making it impossible to calculate the direct subsidy transfer needed to reimburse travel for women,” Bharadwaj said.