A year ahead of Lok Sabha polls, the BJP-led Centre plans to unilaterally go ahead with Phase IV project of the Delhi Metro. The proposal has been pending with the AAP government for over two years. If the plan is executed, it will be a first in the history of Delhi Metro, in which the Centre and the Delhi government are equal shareholders. Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri told The Indian Express that the Centre has “no choice left” but to go ahead with the project due to an “inordinate delay” on the part of the Arvind Kejriwal government.
“Yes, we are moving ahead. He (Kejriwal) is leaving us with no choice but to go alone. People of Delhi cannot be held to ransom,” Puri said.
He said that despite several reminders to Kejriwal, even during one-on-one meetings, there has been no progress. Sources said the financial implications of the move are being worked out.
“The Centre is aware that the move will be a violation of the 50-50 partnership model, but the intention to go ahead alone is mainly due to the sheer scale of the project. It will bring goodwill to the BJP,” sources said.
According to official records, the file containing the proposal of the estimated Rs 55,000 crore Phase IV project is with Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot. It was given an in-principle approval in 2016 but the financial aspect was left out.
An official in the Delhi transport department claimed that the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) made the entire proposition “difficult” as under the current arrangement, the state will have to shell out more money than the Centre. “Moreover, the entire operational losses of the corridors will have to be borne by us in the future,” the official said. The Delhi finance department, which was asked to examine the financial viability of the project, had recently observed that four of six proposed corridors can be given a go-ahead by the government. The observation of the finance department has not yet been taken up by the AAP cabinet. However, it is learnt that the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is not enthused with the observations of the finance department as it leaves out the 22-km-long Tughlakabad-Aerocity line. The ones cleared by the finance department are Janakpuri West-R K Ashram (28.92 km), Mukundpur-Maujpur (12.54 km), Inderlok-Indraprastha (12.58 km) and Lajpat Nagar-Saket G Block (7.96 km).
Apart from the Tughlakabad-Aerocity line, finance department has red-flagged the proposed Rithala-Narela (21.73 km) corridor citing potential losses, mainly due to a possible lack of ridership.
“However, Metro has said leaving out the Tughlakabad-Aerocity corridor will not be possible as it plans to build maintenance depot and related infrastructure on the corridor. Its exclusion makes the entire project unviable,” a transport department official said.
With the approaching polls, there is disquiet even within the AAP over the delay. During the recently concluded session of the Delhi Assembly, a number of AAP MLAs raised queries on the fate of the project.
The areas that will be covered by the proposed lines — Burari, Yamuna Vihar, Paschim Vihar, Rohini east, Mukarba Chowk and Andrews Ganj — house a large migrant population, the support of which played a major role in AAP’s rise to power.