‘Metro Man’ Sreedharan Writes to PM Against Delhi Govt’s Free Rides for Women, AAP Puts Out Counter

The former chief of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said if the Delhi government is 'so keen' to help women commuters, it can pay the cost of their travel directly to them rather than making travel free on metro trains.

Thiruvananthapuram: Opposing the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government's proposed free travel scheme for women in Delhi Metro trains, its former chief E Sreedharan has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to agree to the proposal as it would set "an alarming precedence".

Sreedharan, popularly called ‘Metro Man’, said if the Delhi government is “so keen” to help women commuters, it can pay the cost of their travel directly to them rather than making travel free on metro trains. He is yet to receive a response from the Prime Minister.

Earlier this month, the Arvind Kejriwal government announced that it would make commute for women in public buses and metro trains free.

Sreedharan told CNN-News 18 that the decision to not allow any concession to any section of the society was taken during his time as the managing director, when the first metro line was opened in 2002. Even the then prime minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee had bought a ticket himself to travel to the station from where the metro's first section was inaugurated, he added.

“I would very earnestly request you sir not to agree to the Delhi government's proposal of free travel to ladies in the Metro,” Sreedharan wrote. “Sixty-five per cent of the cost was funded by Japan and the DMRC has agreed to pay this back. Once concession is given to one section, a demand will be made for other sections like students, the elderly, cancer patients and then for MPs and MLAs. The DMRC has to have maximum revenue, only then can it pay back the loan and make it affordable to all.”

Sreedharan said even the Delhi metro managing director, when travelling on duty, is not given any concession.

"Now, if ladies are to be given free travel concession in Delhi Metro, it would set an alarming precedence to all other metros in the country. The argument of the Delhi government that the revenue losses would be reimbursed to the DMRC is a poor solace," he added.

On whether he thinks this is the Delhi government’s move to reach out to women ahead of elections next year, Sreedharan said, “Absolutely, it is obvious to everyone. We should keep these things out of politics. This should not be used for getting votes. "

The DMRC is a joint venture between the Centre and the Delhi government, and one shareholder cannot take an unilateral decision to give concession to one section of the community and push the Delhi Metro in to "inefficiency and bankruptcy", Sreedharan said.

Even officers and staff, including the managing director of the DMRC, purchase tickets when they travel on the metro on official duties, he said, adding that if the Delhi metro starts giving concession they will have to go on increasing the ticket charges every six months.

Welcoming Sreedharan's response, AAP MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj took to Twitter to address his concerns as well. The Delhi Metro won't suffer a loss of Rs 1 through this scheme," he said. "The money for free rides will be given to the Delhi Metro by the Delhi government. Where direct reimbursements are concerned, there are a lot of practical difficulties. How will the government which woman is travelling what distance, on what days, if she is taking the bus or the train — reimbursing this is a very complicated procedure."