New Delhi: Opposing the 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 “alarming precedence”.

In a letter to the prime minister, 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.

The former Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) chief has also sought Modi’s intervention in the matter.

Sreedharan said when the first section of the Delhi Metro was to be opened in 2002, he had taken a firm decision that no one would be given travel concession.

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 said.

“I would very earnestly request you, sir, not to agree to the Delhi government’s proposal of free travel to ladies in the Metro. If the Delhi government is so keen to help lady commuters, I would suggest Delhi government can pay directly to the lady commuters the cost of their travel rather than make travel free on the Metro,” Sreedharan said in the letter.

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

“Now, if ladies are to be given free travel concession in Delhi Metro, it would set 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,” the former DMRC managing director said.

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

OPPOSITION JOINS HANDS

The opposition BJP and Congress have also demanded a review of the decision to implement the proposed scheme.

Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari concurred with the concerns raised by Sreedharan and said that the Kejriwal government should pay heed to him and review its proposal.

“The point raised by the former Delhi Metro chief could not be ignored as he has said that it will lead to inefficiency and a bankrupt Delhi Metro. So, free ride proposal for women in Metro trains must be reviewed by the government,” he said.

Delhi Congress spokesperson Jitendra Kochar said the proposal of the AAP government was aimed at the upcoming Assembly elections and asked for the Metro Man’s view to be considered “seriously”. “My appeal to Kejriwal is that he should think over the proposal otherwise this will lead to the collapse of the Delhi Metro,” Kochar said.

AAP IS AGHAST

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Friday said he was “surprised” by former DMRC chief E Sreedharan’s opposition to the Delhi government’s proposed free travel scheme for women.

In a letter to Sreedharan, Sisodia asked him to reconsider his stand and “bless” the AAP dispensation to go ahead with this progressive step. The deputy chief minister said due to the proposed free scheme for women, the Delhi Metro’s revenue will increase and ridership will go up, and more women will use public transport.

“I am surprised and pained to read your letter addressed to the prime minister, in which you have opposed the Delhi government’s proposal to bear the cost of allowing free ridership for women in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) trains,” Sisodia said in the letter.

He also said the Delhi government will buy around a million coupons in bulk from the DMRC on a daily basis and provide these to women commuters for their free travel, seeking to know why should anyone have any objection to that. “Sir, your stand appears to be a result of a misunderstanding about the Delhi government’s proposal. You will appreciate that after the completion of Phase-III of the DMRC, its services were designed to have a capacity of daily ridership of four million (forty lakh passengers daily),” Sisodia said.

One of the main reasons behind the decreasing Delhi Metro ridership is high fares, he said.

“In fact, the Delhi Metro is one of the most expensive modes of public transport in the world today (after purchasing power parity). The Delhi Metro needs to drastically improve its efficiency and become cost competitive,” he added.