Delhi-Centre fight breaks out on free rides for women on public transport
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday that women will be allowed to travel without charge on buses and Metro trains in the national capital.Updated: Jun 07, 2019 07:41 IST
Union urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday said the Delhi government had no viable plan on how it will provide free public transport to women, setting off a new war of words with the Aam Aadmi Party-led administration, which hit back and declared it was ready to deliver on its promise.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday that women will be allowed to travel without charge on buses and Metro trains in the national capital -- a plan that critics and political rivals have called discriminatory and unfeasible because of the costs and the logistics involved.
“There are two types of syndromes; one is the broken window economics and the other is a variant of it — broken window fraud. For providing subsidies for free travel in buses, there must be enough fleet first. Eleven thousand buses are sanctioned, how many have they deployed so far? I have a healthy ongoing debate with Mr Kejriwal and I will hold a press conference on the subject in a few days,” said Puri, the minister for a department that oversees Delhi Metro operations.
Puri was speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, where he added that the Delhi government had not sent any proposal regarding the free rides to the Centre or to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
Puri also said the Delhi government was in debt. “He [Kejriwal] has a budget of about ₹50,000 crore, it is not being used in Swachh Bharat or Ayushman Bharat schemes but a subsidy of about ₹2,000-2500 crore he wants to give. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is all for women and our voter turnout shows how many women voted for us but schemes can’t be announced first without their proposals being prepared,” he added.
Nearly 30% of the 400,000 commuters who travel in state-run buses are estimated to be women.
“I saw the statement of Hardeep Singh Puri ji and I, as the city’s finance minister, assure him that the Delhi government has enough money to roll out this scheme. We also have a very concrete plan ready on this. We will implement this in a very good manner. We just want him to keep smiling and extend his blessings to us,” deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said at a press conference roughly an hour later, where he said the Delhi government doubled its budget from ₹30,000 crore to ₹60,000 crore in four years to buttress his claim about the administration’s management of finances.
Sisodia’s colleague, transport minister Kailash Gahlot, who was also at the press conference, showed letters issued to the DMRC, Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal System (DIMTS) and the state transport department to claim that planning had gone into the move. All documents shown by Gahlot were, however, dated June 3 onwards.
“We issued orders to the transport commissioner on June 3 to take full plans from the Metro, DTC and DIMTS (company that operates cluster buses). Again on June 3, transport commissioner Rajeev Verma wrote a letter to the DMRC on the issue. Official communication is going on. Meetings are being held regularly. So, it won’t be right to say that no meeting has happened or no official communication took place,” Gahlot said.
Puri and ministers of the Delhi government have locked horns several times in recent years over the issue of public transport in the national capital that has a unique system of administration in which some functions rest with the federal government.
In January, chief minister Kejriwal hit out at the Union government over the costing calculations for the Phase 4 of expansions of the Metro network, which has been delayed for two years since the two administrations could not agree on specifics.
Before that, the Delhi government criticised the Union urban affairs ministry for a hike in Metro fares in 2017 -- a move that has since been linked to a drop in ridership.