E Sreedharan, the retired Delhi Metro chief who is credited for its success, has shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's ambitious plan to provide free metro rides to women will drive the transport system towards inefficiency and bankruptcy. He urged PM Modi not to agree to the proposal.
"I would very earnestly request you sir not to agree to the Delhi government's proposal of free travel to ladies in the Metro," his letter read.
Mr Sreedharan, popularly known as 'Metro Man', said when the Metro service was started in 2002, it was decided that everybody would have to buy tickets to ride the rapid transport system and no exception would be made.
He said the decision was welcomed by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who bought ticket for his first ride from Shahdara to Kashmere Gate in December, 2002.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is a joint venture of the Delhi government and centre, 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", he said.
"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," his letter further read.
Mr Sreedharan, who spearheaded the Delhi Metro from 1995 to 2012, said the staff and the Managing Director also buy tickets to use the service.
He advised that if Mr Kejriwal wanted to go ahead with the scheme, he must put money directly into the accounts of the beneficiaries.
"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," he added.
Saurabh Bhardwaj, AAP leader, has defended the scheme. "I would like to tell Sreedharan ji that Delhi Metro will not lose even a single rupee. The Delhi government will pay women's fare," he said.
"The purpose of this scheme is not to give concession to women, but to increase their presence in public transport. If more women travel in buses and metro, they would feel safer," he added.
The BJP has also reacted to Mr Sreedharan's letter.
"If Sreedharan ji has said that this decision would drive Delhi Metro towards inefficiency and bankruptcy, I think it should be analysed properly," Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari told NDTV.
Mr Kejriwal recently said in a press conference that the scheme would cost Rs. 1567 crore and will be rolled out in eight months.