Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal Wednesday expressed reservations about the Delhi government’s plan to slash bus fares by almost 70 per cent. The decision was taken by the government in December to battle Delhi’s deteriorating air quality by subsidising public transport fares. It was originally mooted by Baijal’s predecessor, Najeeb Jung.
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Sources said Baijal returned the proposal, intended “to encourage more people to switch to public transport”, and has asked the Delhi government to “reconsider” the decision.
“The L-G questioned the economic viability of the decision to slash bus fares. He cited the finance department’s remark about the debt-ridden DTC suffering further losses if bus fares are slashed,” a senior official said.
A Delhi government spokesperson told The Indian Express, “The file was sent back from the L-G’s office recently.” With the first half of January almost over, and the proposal still shuttling between offices seeking approval for implementation, it is likely to remain on paper.
Jung, in December, suggested that the move be implemented for two months this season when pollution levels tend to spike.
The Delhi government had even expressed its readiness to implement the order, with Transport Minister Satyendar Jain announcing that bus fares would be slashed in January. Tickets for non-AC buses were to be at a uniform rate of Rs 5 and those for AC buses at Rs 10 for any distance travelled. Non-AC bus tickets ordinarily cost between Rs 5 and Rs 15 and AC buses cost between Rs 10 and Rs 25.
The returning of the file could signal the first confrontation between the Delhi government and the new L-G. The Delhi government had repeatedly alleged that Jung was crippling governance by withholding approval to projects. Sources in the government said, “We will discuss the L-G’s remarks on the proposal soon and see what can be done.”
The proposal ran into trouble this month when bureaucrats in the finance department, headed by deputy CM Manish Sisodia, expressed reservations about the economic feasibility of the move, sources said. The proposal was then sent to Baijal this month for final approval.
“The finance department felt the debt-ridden DTC would suffer further losses if ticket fares were brought down. Also, the move would inconvenience travellers by inviting more commuters at peak hours when buses run beyond capacity,” said a source.
Last month, Jain and senior transport department officials had said, “Buses run empty for most of the day so reducing fares will bring more people to use buses.”
The finance department’s reservations come days after it questioned the feasibility of Jain’s proposal to acquire 3,000 mini and midi buses. Sisodia had publicly called out bureaucrats and alleged that they were hampering work.
L-G reviews DDA projects
The Lt-Governor Thursday visited the DDA headquarters and held a review meeting of the ongoing projects and development initiatives with vice-chairman Uday Pratap Singh and other senior officials. The L-G emphasised upon digital delivery of services and directed the officials to ensure “quick disposal of public grievances”.