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Delhi Metro fare waiver for women faces hurdles, may take 8 months to be implemented

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal addressed these concerns on Wednesday, saying the fare fixation committee’s (FFC) approval was “a mere procedural step” and that the administration was confident that the roll-out could happen in as soon as two-three months.

delhi Updated: Jun 13, 2019 09:07 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
DMRC,delhi metro,delhi metro women
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announced the Delhi government’s proposal to introduce free travel for women in buses and the metro. ( Sonu Mehta/ HT Photo )

The plan to let women passengers use the Delhi Metro for free will need to be cleared by the committee that decides on fares and take at least eight months to be implemented, officials of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) have told the government, spelling out new challenges before the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) administration’s big-ticket scheme can be rolled out.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal addressed these concerns on Wednesday, saying the fare fixation committee’s (FFC) approval was “a mere procedural step” and that the administration was confident that the roll-out could happen in as soon as two-three months.

“The proposal going through the FFC is just a formality. The committee analyses ways of increasing revenue for the DMRC. In addition to women, DMRC will benefit the most from this scheme as Delhi government will ensure a constant source of revenue for them. It is a profitable proposition as Delhi Metro’s ridership will significantly increase,” Kejriwal said.

The Delhi Metro is a joint venture with the Delhi government and the Union government as equal stakeholders, and its fares are determined by FFC — a three-member committee chaired by an existing or a retired judge of the high court, and one representative each at the level of an additional secretary from the central and the Delhi governments.

The FFC and the Delhi government had locked horns in 2017 when the panel recommended a major increase in Metro fares. The increase eventually went through since it was deemed crucial to keep the service financially viable.

Kejriwal said the DMRC has sought a financial commitment of Rs 1,566.64 crore from the Delhi government for subsidising female ridership completely. The network operator explained the cost by saying the scheme would lead to a 50% increase in women passengers, which, without the subsidy, would count as lost revenue.

The chief minister also clarified that the scheme will include women from all National Capital Region cities. “The DMRC has submitted a concrete proposal... it has offered two options for its implementation. One is a long-term plan that will take a year to implement and will involve changing of the DMRC’s software, tokens and cards,” he said.

The second, he added, is a short-term system in which women will be able to get tokens at ticket counters and automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs).

On June 7, HT reported that the DMRC, in its initial plan, offered to give pink tokens to women passengers wanting to avail the scheme. A long-term step involving a new gender-based database and special smart cards was also in the works.

The short-term plan, Kejriwal said, can be implemented in six months by the DMRC. “But, we believe we can work with their (DMRC) officers and implement the scheme in the 2-3 months. It will be a stopgap arrangement, but, there will be separate entry gates for women where they will insert the special token. Their exit gates, however, will remain common. The DMRC will not need to change their software for this,” he said.

Apart from acquiring new pink tokens, DMRC will need to open ticket counters in about 170 stations where over-the-counter sales have been discontinued to promote transparency and reduce manual intervention.

On June 3, Kejriwal announced the Delhi government’s proposal to introduce free travel for women in buses and the metro. The proposal is yet to be approved by the Cabinet and will also have a special budgetary provision, which Kejriwal said would be given from the government’s women’s safety fund.

The proposal has been panned by political rivals such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which says it is unfeasible and discriminatory.

First Published: Jun 13, 2019 07:06 IST