The Mumbai Metro’s Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line is the state’s first public-private project, but the row over fares could mean it may not set the right precedent for more such partnerships.
There is no easy resolution to the squabble over tariffs between the state and Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL) Reliance Infra led special purpose vehicle that implemented the first Metro line.
While Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) – the nodal agency for the project – has moved the Bombay high court against MMOPL, seeking injunction on a tariff hike, there seems little the government can do if MMOPL goes ahead with its fares.
“Our stance is clear. The tariff will remain to be what was decided in the concessionare agreement when the project was given. Let them move, by legal means, before the Tariff Fixation Committee at the centre and substantiate their claim that project cost went up to Rs4,021 crore from Rs2,356 crore and hence a hike in fares,” said chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
So far, though, the Tariff Fixation Committee has not been set up at the Centre.
State officials pointed out this was the first Build-Operate-Own– Transfer (B-O-O-T) metro project and the contract gives the company ownership rights after the project is completed.
“Getting into this kind of contract was a mistake because the company has ownership and rights to decide fares. At the same time, the earlier tariff plan was in the original agreement. It’s only right that the company gets this hike substantiated by a competent authority, otherwise it will set a bad precedent,’’ said a senior official.
With the BJP-led opposition pushing for the launch of the service, the dispute has only become worse. BJP MPs Kirit Somaiya and Gopal Shetty were detained on Saturday for protesting at the Ghatkopar Metro station.
“BJP is playing pressure politics to hike tariffs. This is a conspiracy to burden citizens. BJP should come clean. We don’t care about the cheap publicity they are trying to get,” said Chavan.
“The CM is making baseless statements to hide failure of his government to start Metro. We want Metro to start for people,” said BJP leader Vinod Tawde.