AAP govt may de-link free bus and Metro plans, roll out the former first

Sourav Roy Barman
The free Metro for women proposal will have to be placed before FFC, which is indicative of delay in implementation.

With the Delhi Metro indicating that there are hurdles in implementing the free rides proposal for women, the Delhi government is inclined to roll out the exemption scheme in the city s public buses first, and is preparing a separate Cabinet note on the same, it is learnt.

Sources said there will be another Cabinet note on implementing the proposal in the Metro.

The AAP leadership, it is learnt, feels the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation s (DMRC) position that the proposal will have to be placed before a Fare Fixation Committee (FFC) is indicative of a possible delay in its implementation.

While the Transport Department is busy finalising the first draft of the Cabinet note on the proposal, announced by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, there are no indications of the Union government setting up an FFC under the Delhi Metro Railway (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002 yet.

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The CM is quite optimistic that the Centre will set up an FFC and the proposal will be cleared. But even then, it will take a few months for its implementation. The DMRC says it will take eight months, and even if the government pushes, it may take at least six months. On the other hand, it can be rolled out in buses after working out the logistics. The Cabinet note on buses is likely to be cleared first, said a senior official.

It will be easier for the government to implement the move in buses as the Transport Minister is the chairman of the board of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC).

The DMRC, on the other hand, is a body where the Centre and the state have equal stake. The DMRC has estimated that it will need an annual subsidy of around Rs 1,566 crore from the Delhi government, if the scheme is implemented. The corporation also insists that the subsidy be paid in advance as an abrupt discontinuation of the scheme may jeopardise its finances, considering it has debt of around Rs 32,000 crore to repay.

There will be another Cabinet note on implementing the proposal in the Metro.

The FFC, once notified, will be headed by a retired or sitting judge and will have two officers each representing the state and the Centre. The 5,500-strong bus fleet in the city is managed by the DTC and the DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System).

The DIMTS manages the nearly 1,700-strong fleet of orange cluster buses, owned by private players.

Once implemented, women will not be travelling ticketless. There will be special passes and tickets. The Electronic Ticket Machines will be equipped to dispense tickets for free travel. This way, a count of how many women are availing the waiver will be kept, an official said.