Terming the upcoming Delhi Metro fare hike “anti-people”, CM Arvind Kejriwal Thursday directed Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot to “come up with solutions to stop it within a week.”
The first phase of fare hike took place in May this year, and the second phase of the increase is to be implemented October onwards — under which ticket prices will go up by maximum Rs 10.
The issue, which might snowball into another political flashpoint between the Centre and the state, had begun soon after the initial hike in May, said a Delhi government official. The Delhi government had written to the DMRC in June 2016 “asking them to not increase fares” and a “decision to hike the prices was taken nonetheless,” the official added.
In a meeting held with Dr Mangu Singh, Chief of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), Gahlot said, “After looking at relevant files, I have directed the DMRC chief to put the plans of fare hike in October on hold…till the Delhi government has examined the reasons behind this hike, and the facts kept in mind for the hike.”
Gahlot further added, “As the Transport Minister of Delhi and keeping in mind the larger interest of the people who travel by the Metro, I have directed the DMRC to do this…now the problems and difficulties they have…whether they will follow this order immediately or not remains to be seen.”
In his order to the DMRC, Gahlot added, “It is not clear as to whether the stand of the Delhi government was considered by the Fare Fixation Committee. The government is in the process of examining the entire matter.” “The Delhi Metro is directed to put on hold any further hike till the Delhi government completes its inquiry and forms an opinion on this subject,” Gahlot said in the order.
However, sources claimed that DMRC has a huge loan liability: as on March 31, 2017, DMRC has taken a loan of Rs 26,760.28 crore from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and has repaid only Rs 3,770.79 crore (interest of Rs 2,263.67 crore and repayment of principal Rs 1,507.12 crore).
Sources further claimed that for every Re 1 received from operation, the surplus available to the DMRC is Rs 0.26 during the year 2016-17. Out of this, DMRC spent Rs 0.27 towards servicing the debt i.e. JICA loan. The net loss before tax for the year 2016-17 is Rs 378.29 crore.
Sources added that there has been an increase in energy, staff, repair and maintenance costs between March 2009 and March 2017. “Energy cost in 2009 was Rs 3.21 per unit; in 2017, it is Rs 6.58 per unit..an increase of 105 per cent,” a source said. Likewise, there has been a 139 per cent hike in staff cost between March 2009 and March 2017; and a 213 per cent hike in repair and maintenance costs in the same period, sources claimed.
Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari has also called upon the DMRC management to “review its decision of tariff hike” while asking for their justification for the hike. “Metro has not provided commuters any new facilities nor reduced congestion to justify any steep hike,” he said.