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dna exclusive: Is Reliance Infrastructure's Mumbai metro a top secret project?

Friday, 22 August 2014 - 5:05am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

  • Highly secretive Reliance Metro

Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) led Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL) that operates the Mumbai metro between Versova and Ghatkopar has couched its operation in such secrecy that it is unwilling to share documents or basic details with not just the public but even its government partner, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).

RInfra being a private organisation does not come under the Right to Information Act, and this company has majority stakes in the MMOPL and is also the Metro Rail Administrator as per the provisions of the Metro Railway (Operations and Maintenance) Act, 2002. The MMRDA owns 26% of the project and the government has three directors on the eight member board, the rest being from Reliance Infra.

The current mechanism is such that any information that is needed is to be routed through the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), who in turn approaches MMOPL to respond.

Three Right to Information applications filed with the MMRDA to get public documents, namely, reports by Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), safety report by Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety (CMRS) and rolling stock approval from the Railway Board have not been responded to. The MMRDA alerted MMOPL but for over a month now it did not share these basic reports.

This is not the first instance of MMOPL functioning in a non-transparent manner. In the past, it has kept MMRDA officials in the dark from the incidents of commuters falling on the tracks, which dna reported on August 12.

On the inaugural day of Mumbai Metro, that is on June 8, there was technical failure at Ghatkopar Metro station resulting in services getting affected, but MMOPL maintained that there wasn't any technical error in their systems.

Later too, there was an instance of signal failure near Jagruti Nagar Metro station on account of heavy rains on July 31, but once again MMOPL came out in public stating that they are purposely running the services late.

RTI experts are of the opinion that the Mumbai Metro is providing public service as a Mass Rapid Transit System, and the CEO is the Metro Rail Administrator, who is a public servant. Thus, MMOPL that operates and maintains the system should come under the RTI Act.

The same voices are even echoed by MMRDA and state authorities who say that metro rail is not on a private plot where entry is prohibited, but the entire project is on a public road and hence the company running the public transport service is accountable to the public.

Reliance officials in the past while speaking to dna have maintained that the firm's position is that the current mechanism wherein Mumbaikars could direct their RTI pleas to the 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 Rapid Metro Guragon Limited (RMGL) has an arrangement wherein people can either mail queries on 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 Gurgaon, with a 5.1-km route and 32,000 daily ridership, is a far smaller network when compared to the VAG which once fully operational will carry more than 11 lakh passengers every day. And moreover MMOPL, as reported earlier by dna, has sweeping powers on the movable assets and landed properties of the VAG corridor as its administrator.

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