The DMRC Board refused on Monday to interfere in the matter of the Metro fare hike, which will come into effect from Tuesday.
The decision, which will lead to an increase of Rs 10 for all travel beyond 5 km, came on a day the Delhi assembly passed a resolution aga inst the fare hike.
A tweet from chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, however, indicated that the political slugfest over the fare hike wasn’t over yet.
“Out of 16, the Delhi government has five directors, who opposed but Centre adamant. Hike too steep. Centre should have been more considerate for common man,” Kejriwal tweeted. An official, meanwhile, quoted from the min utes of Monday eve ning’s DMRC Board meeting, saying, “The Board noted that it does not have the competence to consider defer the implementation of the recommendations of the fare fixation committee (FFC). Delhi government nominees on the board, including chief secretary M M Kutty, informed the Board that the chief minister desired the hike to be postponed and a fresh FFC be constituted to examine various aspects of the fare fixation.”
The official added that the board meeting convened at the behest of housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri had discussed all issues, and that it was informed that under Section 37 of the Metro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002, the FCC’s recommendations were binding on the Metro rail authorities.
Earlier on Monday urban affairs secretary Durga Shanker Mishra, who is also DMRC chairman, had informed DMRC managing director Mangu Singh that there was no need to convene a board meeting. But Puri intervened and suggested to the secretary that a special meeting be called since CM Arvind Kejriwal had pressed for this in his letter to the Union minister to break the deadlock.
Following his suggestion, Singh wrote to the ministry stating, “I agree the Board does not have competence to change the recommendations of the fare fixation committee. However, since the state government representatives have been requesting to discuss the issue in the board and are pressing for it, I would request you to reconsider the decision and hold the board meeting today itself for discussion on the issue.”
Mishra approved and an emergency meeting was called late in the evening.
Though Central government officials said the board’s decision should put an end to the controversy , there is little chance of an early end to the political blame game.
The Delhi government had earlier termed the Metro fare hike as “anti-people” and had issued orders to the DMRC MD to put on hold its implementation till the government had examined the matter and checked how fares were decided.
Saying the hike was likely to hit 30 lakh daily Metro commuters hard, the city government had justified its order to the DMRC to put the hike on hold, saying it was being done “keeping in mind the interests of the people”.
According to the DMRC, the capital-intensive construction of the Metro network had been possible due to a soft loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which it has been paying back in instalments. As a result, all the income from fare box collections and other sources are ploughed into repaying the loan. ” As on March 31, the outstanding JICA loan to be repaid is Rs 26,760.28 crore, along with interest thereon,” a DMRC spokesperson said. “The per day operating profit earned by DMRC for financial year 2016-17 is Rs 1.58 crore,” he said.
The spokesperson said till date the total repayment made by DMRC towards the JICA loan was Rs 3,770.79 crore, of which interest paid was Rs 2,263.67 crore and principal paid was Rs 1,507.12 crore.
Rebate likely for students?
The Centre and Delhi governments can discuss whether any provision of monthly passes could be issued to certain categories of passengers including students and physically challenged at discounted price, a top Union government official said. He said such a possibility could be explored only for those who take the Metro service regularly.