Anxious Over Centre's Response, Kailash Gahlot Shares Delhi Govt's Action Plan for Rolling Out Free Metro Ride for Women
Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot said in cases of fare, the Centre has the final say. However, the free metro ride scheme is a subsidy and hence, central government's permission would not be required, he added.
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced that his government has decided to make commute for women in public transport buses and Metro trains free. While the government has ambitious plans for implementation, many questioned the success of the scheme as both the Centre and the city government have 50% equity each in the Delhi Metro.
The government in the national capital will have to inform or take approval from the central government before rolling out the scheme. Speaking to News18, Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot said that in cases of fare, the Centre has the final say. However, the free metro ride scheme is a subsidy and hence, central government's permission would not be required, he added.
Here are edited excerpts of the interview:
Does Delhi have the infrastructure to absorb new passengers when it comes to DTC and metro?
As far as buses are concerned, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has already mentioned that we have been making an effort for the last couples of years. Now the public will be able to see the results.
From this June, we will start adding new buses. We are starting with standard floor buses, followed by low floor buses and electric buses. DTC is also going to procure another one thousand low floor buses. Kejriwal had mentioned that we will have a fleet of three thousand buses. We will soon put up another cabinet note for a thousand more buses.
Augmentation of DTC buses and the cluster buses is happening at a very rapid pace and I am pretty confident that whatever number increases, we will be able to absorb.
Talking about the metro, we had spoken at the press conference about the anticipated figure of passengers. We have worked out the modalities and possibilities before coming to a conclusion that this incentive will not overcrowd the metros. I think Delhi government has taken the right step in the right direction for women’s safety.
What about the technical issues when it comes to the Delhi metro? How will the coach that is used commonly by both men and women, be used only by women and what are the other technical challenges that you can foresee?
There will be challenges. This is the first time something of this sort has been done, but I think by brainstorming and discussions and more importantly today, we have invited suggestions from the public also.
So after collecting all of this information and discussing about it, I am pretty sure that we will be able to come up with a good plan because of which we will be able to implement this entire scheme without creating a problem for anyone.
We have also discussed if we should have a separate metro card for women or a separate queue at the gates. DMRC has also started bio-metric. So if the machine can read the bio-metric and identify a female passenger, then you won’t require anything, just the card and the bio-metric will do. I think we will be able to roll it out in a pretty decent way.
What are the kind of discussions that you have had with DMRC so far? There is some concern because the Delhi government did not have its way stopping the metro fare hike. So what is the concern this time? Will it be able to have its way when it comes to providing free rides for women?
See there are two issues, one is the issue of fare hike and decrease and the other is the issue of reimbursement or subsidising. First of all, when we talk about any change in the fare, we have to talk about the Fare Fixation Committee, in which the final say is of the Central Government because of whom we were previously unable to reduce the prices, even though they were beyond the reach of the common man.
This issue is completely different, regarding this we are saying that whatever revenue the DMRC collects from female passengers, the same amount will be returned by the Delhi Government. This is a clear cut case of reimbursement or subsidising. For example, the Delhi government pardoned the electricity bill till a certain consumption. That time also the central government had a problem with the decision. But this a clear cut case of subsidising and reimbursement. Regarding the current decision, there is no issue that the central government’s permission will be required.
So you are not anticipating any roadblock from the central government at all?
No, but this is a good move and I hope and wish that the central government does not create any hurdles or objections, rather this should be a welcome move.
There is another issue of installing CCTV cameras in buses and having marshals in buses. What about that? Why has it never taken off in the manner that it was envisioned?
It’s not that it never took off. In all DTC buses, even today there are bus marshals present.
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