According to the terms of MoF approval, the project was eligible for VGF of Rs 1,458 crore from the Central government, and the same was payable to the concessionaire of the project. (Represenational Image/ DC)
Hyderabad: The Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL) authorities' double standards were exposed when it moved to the High Court after the Telangana State Electricity Regulatory Commission (TSERC) upheld the increase in power tariff for Metro rail, claimed activists.
The counsel for the petitioner informed the court that the petitioner had addressed a representation to the energy department requesting to fix the tariff on a ‘cost-to-serve’ basis as per clause 6.4 of the concession agreement.
However, prior to its operations, the HMRL already breached the agreement. The metro authorities, violating the agreement, hiked ticket fares to a maximum of Rs 60 which was fixed to only Rs 19 while entering into the agreement.
City-based activist M. Srinivas said the ongoing scam involved large sums of money and valuable commercial real estate, besides unlawful exploitation of millions of commuters using the Hyderabad metro rail. This scam includes unlawful appropriation of Central Viability Gap Funding (VGF) grant of Rs 1,458 crore, illegal misappropriation of user charges, real estate scam and undue largesse of real estate.
Srinivas said the increase in user charges was said to have been done under the garb of change in law. He, however, said Article 41 of the concession agreement provided that if the concessionaire suffers any financial loss due to change in law, the same would be compensated by the state government. "Conversely, if the concessionaire makes any financial gain due to change in law, he must reimburse the same to the state government, as categorically provided in the said Article 41. However, the state government has not enforced the provisions of this Article, and has allowed the concessionaire to unlawfully misappropriate large unearned gains, which legitimately belong to the state government or the users," Srinivas explained.
This apart, the HMRL authorities were requesting to fix the tariff on a ‘cost-to-serve’ basis, which would only benefit the nodal agency but not the passengers, the activist said. He also said the HMRL had already taken about Rs 1,250 crore as VGF from the Centre, did not utilise the 18 lakh sqft real estate, did not complete the MGBS-Falaknuma stretch and as per the agreement, the HMRL projected 15 lakh footfall per day, however it only managed 4.5 lakh as the maximum with the ticket fare hike and now the agency was asking for concession on power tariff when the common man was forced to pay their electricity bills. The activist demanded that the government give subsidies to everyone, not just the HMRL, which was a real estate agency.
Meanwhile, the project was structured and transparently awarded through open competitive bidding based on the bidding documents that were duly approved by the union ministry of finance (MoF). According to the terms of MoF approval, the project was eligible for VGF of Rs 1,458 crore from the Central government, and the same was payable to the concessionaire of the project.
He said the concessionaire, in collusion with the state government, unlawfully increased the fare by more than double, and yet, received and misappropriated a large proportion of the VGF.