Former Delhi metro chief E Sreedharan on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to agree to the Aam Aadmi Party’s proposed free travel scheme for women. Sreedharan wrote to Modi saying that the proposal would set “an alarming precedence”, PTI reported.
Sreedharan, who is famously called “Metro Man”, wrote to the prime minister saying that if the Delhi government was “so keen” on helping female commuters, it can pay the cost of travel directly to them instead of introducing free travel schemes.
“Now, if ladies are to be given free travel concession in Delhi Metro, it would set an alarming precedence to all other metros in the country,” he wrote in his letter. “The argument of the Delhi government that the revenue losses would be reimbursed to the DMRC [Delhi Metro Rail Corporation] is a poor solace.”
The DMRC is a joint venture of the Centre and the Delhi government, and Sreedharan claimed that one shareholder cannot take a decision unilaterally to give concession to a certain section of the community. He said that this would push the Delhi Metro to “inefficiency and bankruptcy”.
The former Delhi Metro chief further added that even officials and staff, including the managing director of the DMRC, buy tickets when they travel on the metro on official duties. He said that when the metro started running in 2002, it was decided that everyone would have to buy tickets to ride it and no exception would be made, NDTV reported.
The decision was supported by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had bought a ticket for his first ride from Shahdara to Kashmere Gate in December 2002, he added.
Responding to Sreedharan’s opposition, the Aam Aadmi Party said the initiative would not affect Delhi Metro since the state would bear the financial burden. Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that the metro was carrying an average of 25 lakh commuters every day, which he added was a “pretty bad performance for a company” as it was less than 65% of its capacity. “By Delhi Metro’s own admission, free ridership for women will increase women’s ridership by 50%,” The Telegraph quoted him as saying.
AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said that the aim of the scheme is to increase women’s participation in public transport and public spaces. “Making travel free for women will encourage more ridership in public transport, and with more women present in buses and metros, they will become safer spaces,” he said.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party said that Sreedharan’s advice should be looked at. “If Sreedharan has said that this decision would drive Delhi Metro towards inefficiency and bankruptcy, I think it should be analysed properly,” Delhi unit BJP chief Manoj Tiwari told NDTV.