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Tuesday, 03 October 2017 04:05
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If the metro incurs large losses, its services will suffer

 While Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal intensifies his protests against the fare hikes proposed for the Delhi metro—the Delhi government and Government of India are 50:50 partners in it—and claims his opposition was not taken into account while these were fixed, he would do well to keep in mind that the last tariff hike was in 2009. After which, going by the figures put out by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), energy costs have risen 105%, staff costs by 139% and repairs and maintenance costs by 213%. Kejriwal, for his part, has alleged the numbers are doctored and has asked for DMRC’s accounts to be audited—since the accounts are audited anyway, it is not quite clear what Kejriwal wants, but if another audit puts at rest such scurrilous talk, it should be done. Meanwhile, the chief minister would do well to keep in mind, Delhi’s costs are still much lower than those of many other metros. Even after the hike, in the 5-12km route, for instance, the Delhi metro’s Rs 30 is the same as Kochi’s and higher than Jaipur’s Rs 20, but lower than Mumbai’s Rs 50-100 (Rs 10 per station). Also, it is not as if the fare was unilaterally fixed by the DMRC—as per the law, this was done by a three-member Fare Fixing Committee comprising of a retired Delhi High Court judge, the then chief secretary of Delhi and an additional secretary from the ministry of urban development.

Kejriwal, it is true, has a point about the hikes being quite sudden. In the 12-15 km range, the ticket cost Rs 18 till May, this was then hiked to Rs 30, with a provision to hike it to Rs 40 in October. But the reason for this is the inordinate delays in setting up the last fare fixation committee. The metro started operations in December 2002 and the first hike was effected in March 2004—that is, within 15 months. The next one was made effective from December 2005, or 21 months, and the third one from November 2009. So, the next time around, in order to avoid such sudden shocks, Kejrirwal should ensure there is a six-monthly inflation-linked hike and an adjustment done every 2-3 years by a fare fixation committee after taking into account actual costs. New urban development minister Hardeep Puri has done well to draw Kejriwal’s attention to Delhi Transport Corporation that has been run to the ground by its mounting losses, due to the lack of timely fare revisions. The fact that, apart from Kejriwal, there hasn’t been much protest suggests that the 27 lakh passengers travelling on the metro every day realise the tariff hike is justified and that, given the comfort the metro provides, especially now that the network has really grown, it is well worth it.



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