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Most of the mainstream newspapers since the announcement of fare hike in Delhi Metro carried out the same narrative fed to them by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, that the fare hike is the result of Staff Salaries and other Operational expenses incurred by them causing a loss of profit to the Company. The DMRC is registered under the Companies Act, 1956 and has equal equity participation of Government of India and Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. With both Centre and Delhi Government having equal stake in it due to shared ownership, the profits are also shared due to equal equity participation. Also, the total number of nominees of Govt. of India and Govt. of NCTD is 10 out of the total of 17 directors including managing director and chairman.[i] In a sheer display of hypocrisy the “Delhi government had told DMRC increase in fares will force commuters to shift to personal vehicles and in fact fares should be reduced”[ii], when it has done nothing to stop the fare hike when the Fare Fixation Committee Report was submitted last year. “The hike was given a go-ahead by the DMRC Board on Monday based on the recommendations of a Fare Fixation Committee (FFC) set up by the Centre. The 4th FFC was set up in May 2016 to recommend fares for the Delhi Metro as per the Delhi Metro Rail (Operation & Maintenance) Act, 2002”[iii], and the report was submitted “in last September (2016) had recommended fare hike from October 1st last year and again from next October.”[iv] It seems that since last September when the report was submitted, the DMRC board which is constituted by both the Centre and State Governments along with the Company directors waited for the damages caused by the first so called “surgical strike” on people’s lives to dampen down and launched its second strike on the pockets of the people few days back in the form of 25 % to 67 % hike in metro’s fare. Demonetization which has already led to mass scale unemployment as “the study, conducted by the All India Manufacturers’ Organisation (AIMO), has also projected a drop in employment of 60 per cent and loss in revenue of 55 per cent before March 2017.”[v]

The urban poor and the middle classes who are already neck deep in financial crisis they have to face every day because of job uncertainties are going to suffer the most because of this move by the governments and DMRC. The atrocious reason given by the DMRC board that it is a “necessity to revise fares was because of increase in the cost of inputs viz. staff costs, cost of energy and the cost of repair and maintenance”[vi], shows that the governments and the Company wants to create conflict among the working people by ripping one workers pocket to pay another worker. The non-executive staffs working in Delhi Metro are just workers like the one’s commuting in metro every day to their work places. To cite the salaries of workers as the reason of loss in profit and therefore increasing the fares is going to develop class hatred among the working people. Also, it has been 24th day since “the entire operations staff including train operators of DMRC are protesting since April 17 (2017) against ‘discriminatory’ policies of DMRC. ‘It was started on April 17 by wearing a black ribbon on left hand, but the insensitive management, rather than listening to our problems started to threaten us to end protest or face disciplinary action. They even send show cause notices to some 15 people,’ said Ravi Bhardvaz, spokesperson of staff council, DMRC…We are working, operating trains and after that, we come here to protest in 40-degree temp, employees are getting exhausted and that is even risky for the safety of passengers as we need 100 percent focus while operating trains, but authorities are not concerned for any of this, he added further.”[vii] Similar such protests happened in 2015 by DMRC’s non-executive staffers who were demanding for salary increment since 2007. Their demands were “that the salaries of technicians be revised from Rs 8,000 – 14,140 to Rs 10,170 – 18,500. For senior technicians, they have demanded a hike in pay-scale from Rs 10,170 – 18,500 to Rs 14,000 – 26,950 and for head technicians from Rs 14,000 – 26,950 to Rs 16,000 – 30,770.”[viii] In 2015, 32 employees were hospitalised due to hunger strike, but the demands were not fulfilled. Also, the cost of energy and other living expenses have increased not just for the Company, but for every one that works in metro, those who have laid down the metro lines, and all those who travel in metro. This reflects that the Company and the governments are more worried about their profits at the cost of people bearing all the brunt. Also, the lies of lowering down of profits is easily evident if we observe the profits it has made in last few years as stated by the DMRC’s spokesperson in 2014 — “Operating profit in 2010-11 was Rs 767.66 crore, between 2011-12 it stood at Rs 946.34 crore, 2012-13 at Rs 1020.94 crore, and 2013-14 it was Rs 1062.48 crore. ‘DMRC has been making an increasing operating profit in spite of an increase of almost 40 per cent in the cost of energy in the last few years and increase in staff costs despite no increase in the fare level since 2009.’”[ix] The source of profit is not just through daily operations, but also from the revenues earned by the company through advertising and retail set ups. Since its inception Delhi Metro has become a prime spot for the corporates and even the government agencies and institutions to advertise their product. As stated by their spokesperson in 2011 — “DMRC earned approximately Rs 1,607 crore of revenue in the fiscal year ended 31 March. Property development (advertising and retail) contributed almost Rs 98 crore to the revenue. Ticket sales fetched Rs 938 crore, with the remainder coming from consultancy for other Metro projects in the country and miscellaneous sources. DMRC makes an operating profit of Rs 0.48 per traveller. ‘Like Hong Kong, where property development contributes 40% to the overall revenues, we anticipate our revenues in this space to double in the next five years.’”[x]

The questions then arise, why is it that the people should be made to pay for the profits of the company? The company has not increased the salaries of the workers from last 10 years even after their sustained protest. The DMRC workers who are presently protesting against ‘discriminatory policies’ of the DMRC are threatened by the Company. On the other hand the public is made to believe that the fare hike is due to the increasing ‘staff costs’ and operating expenses through media. All of this only exposes the nexus the big companies have with governments and to reap profits they can go to any extent to exploit the people and legitimise it through their propaganda machinery.

Sourabh Kumar , Independent Researcher, Democratic Rights Activist, Former Assistant Professor of English in Ram Lal Anand College, Delhi University

[i] http://www.delhimetrorail.com/about_us.aspx

[ii] http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/delhi-metro-fare-hike-top-5-reasons-behind-dmrcs-move-and-how-much-it-will-cost-you-here-is-all-you-need-to-know/660221/

[iii] http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/from-wednesday-be-prepared-to-pay-more-for-delhi-metro-ride/article18411378.ece

[iv] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/metro-fare-to-go-up-from-wednesday-will-there-be-another-hike-in-oct/articleshow/58573297.cms

[v] http://indianexpress.com/article/india/demonetisation-35-per-cent-job-losses-50-per-cent-revenue-dip-says-study-by-largest-organisation-of-manufacturers-4465524/

[vi] http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/from-wednesday-be-prepared-to-pay-more-for-delhi-metro-ride/article18411378.ece

[vii] http://www.newsnation.in/cities/delhi-and-ncr-news/delhi-metro-employees-demonstrate-peaceful-protest-threatens-to-go-on-hunger-strike-article-170816.html

[viii] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/dmrc-staff-say-their-demand-for-salary-restructuring-has-not-been-met/article7859534.ece

[ix] http://www.financialexpress.com/archive/dmrc-registering-profits-despite-rise-in-energy-staff-costs/1298297/

[x] http://www.livemint.com/Politics/fCgnTG704WOTREOwJaKcGK/Delhi-Metro-seeks-to-double-revenue-from-ads-rentals.html

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