In what can be described as a major setback for the Kejriwal led Delhi government, its proposal for free travel of women in the Delhi Metro has come under heavy criticism from the apex court given its potential of adding to cost overruns. The Supreme Court observed that the Delhi government should instead look after the financial health of the DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) and ensure that no steps are taken which might result in losses to the public transporter. It is important to mention here that earlier this year, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had announced a proposal to extend free rides in the Delhi Metro for women. Later on, he also announced that DTC and cluster buses rides would be free for women.
Justice Deepak Gupta- one of the judges in the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, said, “If you allow people to travel free then it will be a problem.. if there are freebies then there will be a problem.” This observation came after the Delhi government signified hesitance in sharing losses with the Centre. However, the bench observed, “State is responsible for transport. We find nothing objectionable in case the metro suffers losses to be borne by the state as metro is a conveyance within the state and considering the nature of the facility the losses, if any, to be borne by state to ensure policies which do not cause any operational loss or otherwise to the running of the metro …hence we do not find any substance in this objection.”
This is not the first time that Kejriwal’s populist proposal to extend free Delhi Metro travel to women in the National Capital has come under criticism. A couple of months ago, E Sreedharan, known as the ‘Metro Man’ for his contribution towards setting up the Delhi Metro had penned a letter to Prime Minister Modi asking him not to agree with CM Kejriwal’s proposal to make metro travel free for women travellers. E. Sreedharan, Principal Advisor to DMRC, had gone to the extent of suggesting that the Prime Minister’s “personal intervention” was required.
The letter read, “One shareholder cannot take a unilateral decision to give concession to one section of the community and push Delhi Metro into inefficiency and bankruptcy.” The letter expressed the Metro Man’s dismay and disappointment at the bizarre proposal of Delhi CM Kejriwal. Sreedharan had stepped down as the Managing Director of DMRC in 2011 after being an instrumental part of the corporation for several years. In his letter, E Sreedharan had also made it clear that he had decided not to intervene in the working of the DMRC after he stepped down, but he was compelled to speak up in face of this proposal by the Kejriwal Government.
Delhi Metro is nothing less than a lifeline for the daily commuters in the capital. It has only been due to the efforts of the DMRC personnel and minds like E Sreedharan on account of which the Metro has been able to maintain world-class standards. In fact, as such the Delhi Metro has emerged as a trendsetter and an ideal public transport system. Arvind Kejriwal seems to care only about populist decisions and distributing freebies with an eye on electoral gains. His catastrophic decision can hamper the Delhi Metro in a very bad way and has the potential of reducing the hard work of those who have made the Delhi Metro what it is, to nothing.