The Delhi government’s proposal to reduce bus fares and offer free rides to students, widows and the elderly is unlikely to take shape as questions have been raised about its financial viability.
The plan appears to be in cold storage a week after Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Anil Baijal returned the file seeking clarifications on the financial implication for Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC).
“In just four years, DTC’s operational losses have increased by 72% which is a cause of concern. The file has been at the CM’s office for a week now, but there has been no discussion with the departments concerned on the proposal ever since transport minister Satyendar Jain met the L-G,” an official involved in the project said. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Jain are not in Delhi, and are busy with Punjab and Goa Assembly election campaigns.
According to the plan, From January, Delhiites were to get a flat fare of Rs 5 in non-AC DTC and cluster buses and Rs 10 for AC buses.
“The month’s almost over now. It is unlikely that the proposal will be taken forward as apart from the L-G, even the finance department has raised valid questions. This means that the proposal to give a permanent discount of 75% on travel passes to women and those belonging to the economically weaker section is also likely to be shelved,” said another official.
At present, a ride in a non-AC bus can cost between Rs 5 and Rs 15. The AC buses charge between Rs 10 and Rs 25.
BUS FARE REDUCTION IMPRACTICAL: EXPERTS
While the government believes the decision would have encouraged people to use public transport, experts say fare reduction is a “wrong way” to achieve it.
“We are totally against the idea of reducing bus fares to get people to use them more. DTC fares are already the lowest among five metro cities. Yet, in the last two years, DTC’s ridership has only decreased by 10 lakhs. This has happened under the incumbent government,” said Sunita Narain of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
She added the move is not viable and that the government should instead focus on increasing the bus fleet and frequency. Sources said the L-G, too, had questioned if low fares would translate into more commuters.
Besides, it would have also meant huge losses for the already debt-ridden DTC. “In 2012-13 DTC incurred an operational loss of Rs 723.98 crore, which in 2015-16 climbed to Rs 1250.14 crore. Its bus fleet is ageing, scores of routes are only on paper and no buses are being added to the fleet. The government must improve these aspects first,” said transport expert Nalin Sinha.
DTC operates 4,020 buses in the Capital.