Just months before the Delhi assembly elections, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in a populist measure declared that the government will soon be providing free Metro and DTC rides to women. This announcement which met much uproar on Social media both from Delhiites and economic experts is soon to be implemented and is expected to punch major holes in the coffers of the concerned departments. Recent reports emerged which said that the Delhi cabinet was soon to clear the proposal for implementing the scheme in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and cluster scheme buses.
However, as the news of developments reached the state transporter, officials at DTC have raised concerns over the scheme proposed by AAP government under Arvind Kejriwal as elections approach closer. A DTC official told Times of India “Imagine you have a shop where you sell food and about 10 people eat every day. Now if you start distributing free food in a langar, hundreds of people will throng the shop. We are afraid a similar scenario will occur in DTC buses when it allows free Travel for Women. It’s very hard to predict a number but we are expecting a huge surge.”
Along with these operational issues, DTC is also poised to face huge economic setbacks if the scheme is implemented in current forms. According to media reports, DTC internal survey has indicated that the transport operator could face financial losses to the tune of Rs 232 crores every year for orange clustered buses and around Rs 300 crores for the DTC A senior official of the DTC.
Though DTC does not maintain any data for the passengers, it is based on estimates that pitch women riders to constitute 33% of the total commuters. Each DTC bus approximately earns Rs 6000 per day so converting that with 33% free riders the revenue will dip to Rs 4000, This is, however, without considering the change in passenger patterns after the implementation of the scheme which is further poised to hit the revenues in a negative way. Arvind Kejriwal appears to have gone ahead with the unfeasible and ill-advised scheme solely for political purposes to harvest votes from the women-folk of the capital.
The report submitted by the DTC and the transport Department to the Delhi Government last week provides estimates from 2018-19 to 2023-24. According to the estimates the expected losses can rise up to Rs 548 Crores for the cluster buses and over Rs 650 crore for the DTC according to estimated rise in ridership and population.
For the DTC which had already posted a working loss of Rs 1750.37 crores in the budgetary estimates of 2018-19, this additional pressure will surely not go well with the transport operator and may comprise the quality of its operations and service. AAP government under Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appears to not have taken note of these concerns and instead has willfully ignored them.
Similar concerns were raised regarding the implementation of the scheme in Delhi Metro. E Sreedharan, known as the ‘Metro Man’ who is the Principal Advisor to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited (DMRC), went to the extent of suggesting that the Prime Minister’s “personal intervention” was required against the scheme proposed by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. In a letter, he had raised similar concerns over finances of Delhi Metro and said “One shareholder cannot take a unilateral decision to give concession to one section of the community and push Delhi Metro into inefficiency and bankruptcy.”
Slamming Arvind Kejriwal for his blatant populist scheme and his past record of unfulfilled promises, Hardeep Puri said that Arvind Kejriwal was suffering from “broken window fraud”. He said, “There are two types of syndrome – broken window syndrome and broken window fraud. I think Kejriwal is suffering from the latter.” He added, “Kejriwal has a budget of Rs 50,000 crore. He is neither using it for Swachhta in Delhi nor is he giving Delhi citizens benefits of Ayushman Bharat scheme by the Central government. But now he wants to give a freebie of Rs 1,200 crore. This needs to be debated. BJP is all for women. But this is not a scheme. Arvind Kejriwal has made an announcement first but DMRC or us haven’t received any proposal as of yet.” Talking about the proposal to provide free bus rides, Puri said that the Delhi government had failed to bring enough buses on roads, rendering the proposal to provide free bus rides also unrealistic.