Sheila Dixit, the late former chief minister of Delhi, is regarded as one of the best administrators the country has had. She is admired across the political spectrum for building a world-class infrastructure for Delhi. The roads, metro, as well as bus services in Delhi- before Kejriwal ruined it- is world-class and the city has one of the best intra-city connectivity in the country.
Sheila Dixit ruled the city for almost 15 years before losing power to Kejriwal won elections amid anger against the corrupt UPA government at the centre at the time and the whole Congress party. Kejriwal promised a government free of corruption, and most importantly, he promised freebies.
Since then, Kejriwal, in order to provide freebies, reduced the capital expenditure to one of the lowest, which led to deterioration of the existing infrastructure and almost no new addition. The body which is bearing the brunt of Kejriwal’s freebie politics is Delhi Transport Corporation.
Last year, in the month of June, Kejriwal announced, “Women will be given free rides in DTC, cluster buses and the Delhi Metro. The government will bear their travel expenses.”
Kejriwal has not been able to implement free ride in Delhi Metro but implemented the same in Delhi Transport Corporation. The DTC had posted a loss of 942.89 crore rupees in 2013-14 before Kejriwal came to power. But since the AAP government came to power, the loss has increased exponentially to reach 1,750.37 crore rupees in 2018-19. In five years, for most of which AAP was in power, the loss of DTC doubled.
The loss doubled despite the fact that the number of buses under DTC reduced from 5,223 in 2013-14 to 3,951 in 2017-18. In just four years, the number of DTC buses came down by almost 1,300 as now new bus was added at the expiry of old ones. Not just that, the number of DTC rides also came down to 29.86 lakh in 2017-18 from 31.55 lakh in 2016-17.
Despite the falling number of rides and the number of buses, losses rose up exponentially. With the implementation of free rides, the losses of DTC are bound to shoot up northwards.
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 4000 rupees. 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.
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.
Kejriwal has remained loyal to ‘radical populism’, even if the people had to pay the cost of in the long term. The Delhi Chief Minister understands the radical populism is the easiest way to win an election in an urban conglomerate like the capital city. And so far, he has worked in the same direction. Free water, free power, free education, free health and free metro rides- all these are the leaflets of Kejriwal’s urban populism. His politics has worked very well so far, but in the long run, the people of Delhi will pay for the loss, as the services will deteriorate over time with lowering of Capital expenditure.