The Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG) Metro, controlled by the Reliance Infra-led Mumbai Metro One Private Ltd (MMOPL), is all set to steel itself from the prying queries of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The consensus within the firm is that there is nothing in the Metro Railway (Operations and Maintenance) Act that compels MMOPL to be brought under the ambit of the RTI, despite it being designated the all-powerful Metro Railway Administrator.
The feeling among Rel Infra bigwigs is that the current mechanism, wherein Mumbaikars could direct their RTI pleas to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for information pertaining to the VAG corridor, will work just fine.
Such a mechanism already exists in Gurgaon, where the country's first fully privately financed metro – Rapid Metro Guragon Ltd (RMGL) -- has an arrangement under which people can either mail queries to the RMGL website or direct their RTI pleas to the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), under whose auspices the RMGL works.
However, what could be discomforting for Mumbaikars is that the Rapid Metro Gurgoan, with a 5.1-km route and 32,000 daily ridership, is a far smaller network when compared with the VAG, which, once fully operational, will carry more than 11 lakh passengers every day. Moreover MMOPL, as reported earlier by dna, has sweeping powers on the movable assets and landed properties of the VAG corridor as its administrator.
The plan to have MMRDA as the go-between for the ordinary Mumbaikar to gather information about the VAG corridor might not be a pleasant one if past experiences are anything to go by.
MMRDA and MMOPL have behaved like completely detached agencies, when it came to parting with information during some of the accidents that took place in the construction phase of the VAG corridor. It was most evident during a slab collapse at the Airport Road Metro station on September 4, 2012, which killed a labourer and injured many. The MMRDA at the time took a stance that it had nothing to do with the issue as the construction was going on as per a contract between MMOPL and the construction firm HCC.
Replying to a query on whether the MMRDA would play a role in getting MMOPL under the ambit of RTI, MMRDA metropolitan commissioner UPS Madan maintained that getting MMOPL under RTI would have to be "declared by the law and cannot be determined by any officer".
On its part, MMOPL's reply to a dna query, ironically on the topic of RTI, gave nothing away.
"MMOPL is working under the existing legal framework. RTI and other legal issues shall be dealt with accordingly," its spokesperson said.