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dna exclusive: Metro operator won't reply to RTIs; even MMRDA can't get info

Friday, 22 August 2014 - 6:50am IST | Agency: dna

After a series of safety concerns over the Mumbai Metro, there's more worry for Mumbaikars as Reliance Infrastructure-led Mumbai Metro One Private Ltd (MMOPL) is unwilling to share public documents or basic details not only with the citizens but also with Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the government agency partner.

At least three Right to Information (RTI) applications are lying with MMRDA, asking to copies of the report by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the safety report of the Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety (CMRS) and the approval from the Railway Board for the rolling stock. MMRDA put the matter before MMOPL over a month ago, but the operator has not shared the information so far.

MMOPL is controlled by RInfra, which holds a majority stake. Private organisations like RInfra are not covered under the RTI. MMOPL is also the Metro Rail Administrator under the Metro Railway (Operations and Maintenance) Act, 2002. While RInfra has five directors on the MMOPL board, MMRDA with 26 per cent stake has only three directors.

Under the procedure apparently followed within MMOPL, an application for any information required is to be routed through the MMRDA, which in turn will approach MMOPL for a response.

RTI experts feel that Mumbai Metro provides a public service. The chief executive officer is also the Metro Rail Administrator, who is a public servant. Hence, MMOPL, which operates the system, should be brought under the RTI Act.

MMRDA and state officials echoed the sentiment, saying that the metro rail system does not operate in a private area where entry is prohibited but the entire system runs over a public road.

Reliance officials have privately acknowledged that routing RTI pleas through MMRDA, for information on the Vikhroli-Andheri-Ghatkopar train network, is fine.

Such a mechanism exists for the fully privately-financed Rapid MetroRail Gurgaon Ltd (RMGL) where people can email queries to the company website or submit RTI pleas to the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), under whose auspices RMGL functions.

Previous instances of secrecy

In the past, MMOPL has kept MMRDA in the dark about incidents of commuters falling on the tracks. (Read dna on 12 August 2014)

On the inaugural day (8 June 2014) there was a technical failure at Ghatkopar stattion which affected services, but MMOPL denied any problem.

On July 31, there was a signal failure near Jagruti Nagar station, apparently caused by heavy rain, but MMOPL denied the problem saying services had been staggered deliberately.

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