Taking a dig at Delhi Government’s various freebies, Union Housing and Urban Affair Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday said if one could win elections by providing things free of cost, the Delhi Chief Minister would have made everything free.
"If you can win elections by making everything free, Kejriwal would make everything free — rides on buses, electricity. Some he would make completely free, others half-free. When you ask where the money is coming from, he would say there is corruption," Puri said while speaking at the 6th National Forum 2019 organised by Public Affairs Forum of India.
Puri said that it is not whether it should be free or not, but it should be how could you devise a system which is reasonably priced and efficient. The minister said that Delhi has one of the finest metro systems in the world that is not only cheap but also efficient.
The Aam Aadmi Party government has recently announced making metro and bus rides free for women in Delhi. It has also announced free electricity to Delhi residents up to 200 units of power. The announcements have been in view of the Delhi assembly polls due early next year.
Countering the claim that metro ridership has gone down since its fare hike, Puri said the footfall has rather "trebled" since the increase. "The ridership was 24-25 lakh then (before fare hike) but it has trebled since then. It is 66 lakh now and going up by the day. Yes, there is a co-relation between fare and ridership but it is more dependent upon the overall demand and what kind of service you are providing," he said. The metro fare was hiked in 2017 after a gap of nine years.
"The fare fixation committee in Delhi had not met for nine years. It was decided that since it has not been done in 9 years, it would be done in two installments,' said Puri.
"Despite opposition, some of us have the maturity to realise if we succumb to populist pressures, barely any infrastructure would be left. Whether you build a road or an airport, you have to be reasonable," he said.
Commenting on the recent slump in auto industry, Puri said people, especially the press, are very quick to criticise it. "But there must be calculative cost of ownership. You may say a lot of young professionals in India who started life, wanted a car of their own. But you have a metro system with the last mile connectivity. You have a situation where a lot of people would choose public transport if it were good," he said.
He also accused Kejriwal of not implementing any central scheme. "Kejriwal does not implement any of the central schemes. Ayushman Bharat is a scheme for the healthcare but he has not implemented it here," said Puri.
"Out of a Rs 40,000-50,000 crore budget, around Rs 500-600 crore he takes out for full-page advertisements of all the good work (he claims to have done) saying I went and counted all dengue mosquitoes and I want you to do the same. He has spent a lot of money on it," Puri said, again taking a dig at Delhi government's "har ravivar, dengue pe war" drive.