After fare hike, Centre to set up expert panel to examine Delhi Metro accounts
Following the second fare hike by Delhi Metro this year on October 10, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal demanded a review of the metro operations. The Aam Aadmi Party also asked for an audit of income and expenditure incurred by DMRCdelhi Updated: Oct 20, 2017 18:31 IST
The Centre has agreed to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s demand for an independent expert group to review all issues concerning the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), including its income and expenditure.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had demanded an audit of DMRC accounts while opposing the recent Metro fare hike, likening the transport agency to private power distribution firms that allegedly depicted “fake losses” for justifying high power tariffs.
In a letter sent to Kejriwal on Wednesday, Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the Centre was open to his suggestion for an independent expert group to review the Delhi Metro’s functioning. He also invited the chief minister for a detailed discussion on the terms of reference for the proposed study.
Puri’s letter is likely to be a shot in the arm for the Delhi government, which had even devoted a day of its special assembly session to the issue. However, it refused to comment on the matter until it receives the letter. “We have always said that this hike is unsustainable and, as a 50% stakeholder, our demand for auditing the DMRC is not unjustified,” said Nagender Sharma, media advisor to the chief minister.
In the second hike this year, the Delhi Metro on October 10 increased fares for those travelling over two kilometres by anywhere between Rs 5 and 10. The city government vehemently opposed the “anti-people” move, but acquiesced after the DMRC board decided in an October 9 emergency meeting that it does not have the “competence” to roll back or defer the hike recommended by the Fare Fixation Committee (FFC). It cited Section 37 of the Metro Railways (Operations and Maintenance) Act-2002 to state that the panel’s recommendations are “sacrosanct”, and the Centre cannot interfere in the matter.
Last week, the Delhi chief minister urged Puri to constitute an independent expert group acceptable to both the Centre and state to review Metro-related issues. “Since you are keen on a study of various aspects of the DMRC’s functioning by an expert group acceptable to both governments, this ministry is (willing to) take it forward in the best interests of the DMRC. This, in turn, should benefit the people of the national capital too,” Puri wrote to Kejriwal on Wednesday.
The Union minister was responding to two letters written to him by Kejriwal in the past fortnight, where the latter questioned the equal stake held by the Delhi government and the Centre in the Metro. “The entire episode demonstrates that while the Delhi government and Centre are equal partners in the DMRC, the Delhi government has virtually no say in its management,” the chief minister said.
A source in the housing ministry said Puri’s letter was necessitated by the contradictory stand adopted by Kejriwal. “While the chief minister publicly tried to create the impression that the Centre was blocking him from reviewing the DMRC’s functioning, his letter to the Union minister proposed the formation of an expert group acceptable to both governments for the purpose. This indicates his agreement that no such unilateral review is possible or tenable,” he added.
The Union housing minister’s letter also urged Kejriwal to urgently take up the Delhi Metro Phase-IV proposal for further processing and consideration. “This crucial phase has already been delayed by about two and a half years. This is effectively depriving over 40 lakh Delhi residents of Metro services,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, both AAP and Congress continue to protest against the fare hike by staging sit-ins outside Metro stations.
The DMRC had been requesting the hike since 2009, but was unable to execute it in the absence of a fare panel. The electricity tariff has gone up by over 90% since 2009, accounting for almost 30% of its total operating costs.