Former DMRC chief E Sreedharan has described the Delhi government’s free rides proposal for women as an “election gimmick”, drawing a sharp reaction from the AAP, which not only accused the ‘Metro Man’ of reading out a “BJP script”, but also questioned his “silence” over alleged irregularities in the Airport Express Line.
While Sreedharan and the Delhi government’s disagreement over the issue had emerged last week after he urged the Prime Minister to intervene and stall the proposal, the language in the fresh round of the tussle indicated the gloves are off.
Writing to Deputy CM Manish Sisodia on June 20, Sreedharan stated: “Please remember any compensation Delhi government pays to DMRC is tax payers’ money and tax payer has a right to question why only women are being given free travel. Everybody knows this is an election gimmick to win votes of women in the next Assembly election.”
He also appealed to the AAP government “not to destroy an efficient and successful public transport system such as Delhi Metro for electoral gains”.
Later, addressing a press conference, AAP leader Atishi said the party finds it strange that Sreedharan, a “globally respected technocrat”, is writing a “purely political letter”. On social media, the party put out a series of tweets using the hashtag “SreedharanPlaysPolitics”.
“It seems as if the BJP is firing from Sreedharan’s shoulder and he is saying exactly what the BJP wants to say. Otherwise, when the BJP government proposed giving rebates in Metro to senior citizens and students last year, why did he not talk about financial burden? While the Delhi government proposes to foot the entire subsidy bill, the Centre’s cross subsidy model would lead to a rise in fares,” Atishi said.
The AAP leader went on to question Sreedharan’s “silence” over alleged financial irregularities relating to the premium Airport Express Line of the Delhi Metro, which connects New Delhi Railway Station to Delhi Airport’s Terminal 3.
“We wanted a CBI inquiry into the issue, which was stalled. Why did he not raise any voice against the irregularities, considering he was the in-charge of Delhi Metro then? Did he protect the Metro administration by not ordering a CBI probe? Is this why BJP is able to shoot from his shoulder today?” Atishi said.
In his letter to Sisodia, Sreedharan (87) reiterated he was against the very idea of allowing free travel to any section of commuters till the time DMRC is able to pay back its outstanding loan amount of over Rs 35,000 crore. He expressed fear that while the AAP government may subsidise the proposal, a future government may discontinue it.
“I am not opposing the Delhi government’s proposal to bear the cost of free travel for women but objecting only to the concept of free travel in a Metro. If we allow free travel for women, what about more deserving categories such as students, disabled persons, senior citizens, etc? No Metro in the world has extended free travel facility to women exclusively,” he wrote.