With Mumbai’s first metro service ready to roll out on Sunday, the tussle between the Maharashtra government and Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure-led Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL) over the fare structure intensified Saturday, with the matter being dragged to the Bombay High Court.
As the MMOPL independently notified an initial fare that is higher than what the state government decided, CM Prithviraj Chavan-led Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) approached the high court, seeking an injunction against the hike.
The MMOPL has constructed the 11.4-km Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar Metro on a public-private partnership model with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure holding a 69 per cent equity stake, the MMRDA 26 per cent and a private firm, Veolia Transport, holding five per cent. This is the country’s first metro to be built on such a model.
On Saturday, MMOPL CEO Abhay Kumar Mishra announced that metro rail service would open to people from 1 pm Sunday. While MMOPL officials said the opening date and fare had been finalised after coordinating with the state government, Chavan said that till 5.30 pm Saturday, he had not received any invitation. But he said he had agreed to remain present for Sunday’s inauguration on the condition that the fare won’t be hiked “arbitrarily and in an illegal manner”. “While there is no issue with the inauguration of the service, we (the government) have made it clear the original tariff must be adhered to,” he said.
For the first month, the MMOPL has decided to offer a flat promotional tariff of Rs 10 for a single journey to and from any station. For later, the MMOPL has notified a tariff of Rs 10-40, while the state, going by the concession agreement, had in September 2013 notified a fare of Rs 9-13.
While the government has questioned the MMOPL’s right to overrule its fare notification, the MMOPL insists it was within its rights to notify fares as the Metro Railways Administrator (MRA).
The dispute also took a political turn Saturday with BJP MPs Kirit Somaiya and Gopal Shetty and state assembly legislator Prakash Mehta demanding that the government begin the the service. Chavan, meanwhile, accused the BJP and MMOPL of being hand-in-glove and “forcing an illegal fare hike on Mumbaikars”.
Debashish Mohanty, director, MMOPL, said, “Under the Metro Act, it is a statutory requirement that the MRA has to fix the initial fare as per law. What we are doing is within the framework of law.”