No invitation, says Chavan who may skip inaugural function
A day before the inauguration of Mumbai’s very first Metro-rail, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan got into a major confrontation with the Anil Ambani-led Mumbai Metro One Private Ltd (MMOPL) over fares hikes.
Mr. Chavan is unlikely to attend the inaugural function on Sunday. The chief of the government’s Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) U.P.S. Madan is also likely to stay away. The body has a 26 per cent stake in the project.
“I have not received their invitation. I will only attend the function if they give me an undertaking that they will not increase the fares in the contract. In order to increase the fares, they should go before the fare revision committee,” Mr. Chavan told The Hindu on Saturday.
Govt. opposes fare hike
The MMOPL signed an agreement fixing the fare slabs at Rs .9, Rs. 11 and Rs. 13. It later changed them to the rates Rs. 10, Rs. 20, Rs. 30 and Rs. 40. The government has already gone to court against the fare increase and has also sent a notice to the Reliance Group.
Unperturbed by Mr. Chavan’s stand, MMOPL said it would go ahead with the inauguration. “The Chief Minister is welcome to attend. We will offer a promotional rate of Rs. 10 for a commute between the first 12 stations for the first month. After that we will see the usage of the Metro and increase the rates accordingly,” said Abhay Mishra, CEO of MMOPL.
The inaugural stretch of the Mumbai Metro will cover an 11.4 km stretch between Versova and Ghatkopar, connecting the Eastern and Western Surburbs. The project had begun 7 years ago. The MMOPL is special purpose vehicle in which Reliance Infrastructure has the majority stake. The MMOPL said it was forced to increase fares as a result of inflation. “When the rates were fixed, the operating cost for 2014 was projected at Rs. 100 crore. Now it has gone up to Rs. 240 crore,” said Debashish Mohanty, spokesperson of the Reliance Group. He said that they had the authority to fix the fares as per the Metro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002.
The Chief Minister also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of helping the Reliance Group increase the tariff by pushing for the Metro's inauguration, charges the party denied.
“Why is he blaming us? He could not bring necessary permissions from the Centre during the UPA regime. We brought them in eight days. He is scared of losing credit,” said senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde.
(With additional reporting from Alok Deshpande)