New Delhi: Firing a fresh salvo in his ongoing tussle with the Centre over the upcoming hike in Delhi Metro fares, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday offered to take over the Metro and “run it efficiently without increasing fares“.
Responding to a letter by Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri, in which the latter had asked the Delhi government to provide an annual grant-in-aid of about Rs 3,000 crore if it wanted the fare hike to be put on hold, Kejriwal wrote back saying that the Delhi government was willing to bear half the revenue loss if a matching grant was provided by the Centre. In his letter, Kejriwal said the Centre and Delhi government were 50:50 owners of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and its equity etc were shared in this proportion all along. “Let an assessment be made of the financial gap likely to be created on account of the postponement of the second fare hike and we will be able to bear half of it,” he said.
DMRC chief Mangu Singh called on Kejriwal at the latter’s residence on Sunday evening for a brief meeting at the CM’s request. “It was a personal meeting,” said a source close to the CM.
After 2009, Delhi Metro’s fares were hiked on May 10 this year following a recommendation of a fare fixation committee (FFC). The second phase of the hike is scheduled to kick in from October 10. The move has been termed ‘anti-people’ by the Delhi government, which asked for the hike to be put on hold till an audit of DMRC’s finances is carried out.
Puri had written to Kejriwal, saying that neither the Centre nor the Delhi government had the authority to put the hike on hold as it is legally untenable. He, however, said that the Centre was willing to constitute a fresh FFC if the Delhi government agreed to bear the funding gap of DMRC, which amounts to about Rs 3,000 crore per year for five years.
In his letter to Puri, Kejriwal wrote, “I cannot recall any instance where the prevailing fares payable by a very large number of users were doubled in this manner. He said since the Centre bears 100% loss of the Kolkata metro, “I see no difficulty if the Centre bears 50% loss in case of Delhi”.
Kejriwal said that while both the Centre and Delhi governments were equal partners in DMRC, it was becoming evident that the relationship was not that of equal partners. What the Delhi government proposed was often summarily dismissed by the central government, he said.
“We are confident that we will be able to fund DMRC by improving its efficiency rather than effecting steep fare hikes and provide an affordable means of transport to the people of Delhi,” he said in the letter.