The Delhi Metro may be bleeding money because of a seven-year delay in revising the fare structure but spent over Rs8.5 lakh on foreign trips of a committee whose recommendations on hiking ticket prices is still stuck.
A Right to Information reply has revealed that the three-member fare fixation committee (FCC) of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) visited Hong Kong and Japan between August 7 and 13 and the total expenditure was Rs8,53,311. Estimates say, the DMRC is making a loss of Rs1 crore daily because of no revision in fares.
The committee took charge on June 9 and proposed to go on a whirlwind trip to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei to study the fare structures there.
The committee was headed by retired judge of Delhi high court, justice ML Mehta. Delhi chief secretary KK Sharma and additional secretary in the Union urban development (UD) ministry, DS Mishra, were the other two members.
“I do not know how much money was spent but the trip was very helpful as we were able to learn technicalities not only related to fare revision but overall improvement of the Metro system,” said Mehta.
Sources in the Urban Development Ministry said the proposal raised the hackles of both urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu and secretary Rajib Gauba, who wanted to know the urgency and the need such a trip would serve. But they gave in after the members argued that it was not the first time an FCC was going abroad to study fare structure.
“Just because the previous FFC practiced the same to make a recommendation, that doesn’t mean they can repeat this again. As per reports, at first glance even the UD ministry was surprised to learn about this trip. They should have used technology for this purpose like video conferencing instead of making a visit to different countries,” said Aniket Gaurav, an RTI activist.
The committee has submitted the report but implementation of suggestions have been delayed, unlike previous occasions when recommendations were put into force immediately. One of the reasons for the delay is that a DMRC board meeting hasn’t been called yet.
“It might be politically inexpedient to increase the Metro fare at this point of time. Besides DMRC officials, the board has representatives from Delhi government and Urban Development Ministry and all have to be available for the meeting. Unless all agree, the meeting date can’t be fixed,” said an official of the urban development ministry.
The last time the Delhi Metro fares were revised was back in 2009, when the minimum fare was increased from `6 to `8 and the maximum fare from Rs22 to Rs30.
Since 2009, electricity tariff has gone up by over 90%, accounting for almost 30% of DMRC’s total operating cost. It says it will run into losses if fares are not revised.
The committee has submitted its report and recommended that the minimum passenger fare should be revised from the current Rs 8 to R s10, and the maximum fare from Rs30 to Rs50.