- Published: Thursday, 30 November 2017 15:44
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Till May 10, Sahu was paying Rs 15 for the train ride and Rs 20 for a shared auto-rickshaw ride to the metro station. The fares increased by Rs 5 that day, but Sahu continued using the metro because the expense was manageable. The second fare hike on October 10 took the cost to Rs 30. He now leaves his home earlier because the bus to Nehru Place comes at no fixed time. From there, he boards another bus to Kailash Colony. The journey is tougher but it only puts him behind by Rs 20, instead of Rs 50.
The reluctance of people like Sahu to pay more for their daily commutes seemed to be reflected in Delhi Metro seeing a dip of three lakh commuters per day in October. The steeper rates appeared to price out many commuters, who began to look for alternatives that might not be comfortable and reliable but were easier on the pocket.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) cited rising costs of operation and its loan repayments to demand a fare hike, the last increase having been effected in 2009. When Delhi government opposed the October rate change, Union minister for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri had remarked that DMRC would go the way of Delhi Transport Corporation if its fares weren't jacked up.
But daily users see it differently. Uttam Sarkar (50), an accountant in a private company, reasoned, "Delhi Metro is not a business. It is meant to help control pollution by providing easy transport, including for those in low-income groups." He asked why the government could not subside Delhi Metro, which is used by 30 lakh people every day, when it provided subsidy to Air India, which is out of reach of the common man. Sarkar would rather use his CNG car than take the metro now. "I spend around Rs 70 travelling from my Vaishali home to office in Kailash Colony, which is lower than what I have to fork out for metro travel now," he said. Others have switched to pool rides on app-based cabs. "In shared cabs, I spend around the same amount I did before the metro hike," said public relations professional Kamal Kumar (37).
Sections sensitive to rising prices, such as students and senior citizens, too are shunning Delhi Metro. Janmejay Kumar, a 20-year-old student from Champaran in Bihar, shares a room with three other students in east Delhi's Pandav Nagar and cannot afford over Rs 2,000 per month on travel. "I don't have much left after institution fees, food and accommodation," Kumar said. "With fares so high now, Delhi Metro should introduce concessional passes for students."
DMRC contends that the October dip in ridership was due to reasons such as the festive season and that ridership has risen in November, though it refused to provide exact figures. The new metro corridors will probably mean ridership going up to 30 lakh again. But for many, like Sahu, there is no going back to a metro station.
(Source: The Times of India)