A hike in Metro fares will not be allowed until the special audit of the company operating the service doesn’t get completed, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Monday. The state on Monday also requested the Centre to de-notify Mumbai Metro from the Central Metro Act, so it gets the power to fix the fares.
Fadnavis had, in April, announced a special audit of the company, Reliance Infra-led Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL), by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) to examine the actual expenditure and operating cost, among others, as the government had reservations over the fare hike and escalated cost of the project. The CM on Monday said the government was tapping legal options to resolve the fare hike issue.
At a meeting called by Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu, Ranjit Patil, minister of state for urban development, sought ways to prevent the operator from charging higher fares. “Bringing Metro under the Central Metro Act, which lacks clarity on public-private-partnership projects, gave MMOPL the power to fix the fares. So we have asked the Centre to de-notify the project from the ambit of the Act for now and then add it again later, after making amendments that ensure the power to fix fares stays with the government,” said Patil.
“We told Naidu the abnormal fare hike has angered the commuters. He assured us that appropriate decision would be taken, after consulting the ministry of law and justice,” he said, adding the state has asked the Centre to reconstitute the fare fixation committee (FFC).
Patil was accompanied by MMRDA commissioner UPS Madan, city MPs Kirit Somaiya and Gopal Shetty, who said the report submitted by the fare fixation committee (FFC) was biased towards the operator.
Earlier, the project was being developed under the Tramways Act, which gave the state the power of fare fixation. “The FFC ignored the concession agreement between the state and Reliance Infra, and did not give us a proper hearing before increasing the Metro fare up to Rs110,” Patil said.
The ministry of urban development can either ask the same committee to review the recommendations or set up a new committee.
Sources in the chief minister’s officer said the MMOPL was not likely to initiate any hike in the near future. Meanwhile, about 50 Shiv Sena workers on Monday protested near Ghatkopar station against the fare hike.