In a landmark step to pressurise the government into rolling back the metro fare hike which came into effect in May and October of 2017, the All India Students’ Association (AISA) held a strike in the Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station from 1pm on the 18th of January.
The protest “Occupy Vishwavidyalaya” witnessed a number of students, led by the AISA, block Gate 3 of the metro station in a bid to ‘occupy’ the same until the government accepted their demands of immediate rollback of the metro fare hike and giving metro consessional passes to all DU students.
Senior members of AISA Neeraj Kumar, Sucheta Dey, and Sunny Kumar along with ardent supporters raised slogans like “fare hike dhokha hai” (fare hike is betrayal), “metro pass dena hoga” (the government will have to give metro concessional passes), and “paee paee occupy (occupy every inch)”.
In the context where an estimated 2.8 million passengers travel daily on the capital’s metro, the DMRC had recorded a fall in ridership when it had hiked the metro fare twice in 2017. This move had been exceptionally hard-hitting for the students of DU, many of whom have to travel long distances to come to college.
At the face of several policemen being stationed at the metro station to control any law and order situation that might crop up, AISA President (DU) Kawalpreet Kaur, in her impassioned speech, invoked the crowd to block Gate 3 and pledged not to move until either the DMRC or the government heeds their demands. Terming the fare hike as “unacceptable”, Kawalpreet said, “This metro is named Vishwavidyalaya and yet the students themselves aren’t able to use the metro. So what is the point of calling this metro station ‘Vishwavidyalaya’? The fare hike has compelled the students to either use other means of transportation or even skip college on days at an end. This inability to access the university campus also amounts to denial of education.”
It is noteworthy that even last October, AISA had held a demonstration in the Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station to pressurise the government on this issue. However, AISA National President Sucheta Dey today claimed that till date, there has been no communication from the DMRC in response to the same. On being asked by the DU Beat correspondent regarding their course of action if the police forcefully tries to evacuate the gathering, AISA State Secretary Neeraj Kumar said, “We have raised our voice in a peaceful manner. Any unprecedented step by the police would go against the law. In a passionate reference to the legacy of student protesters, Kawalpreet discerned that it was because of the protests by the students of DU a few years back that student passes for DTC busses were made available.
While Delhi Metro has lost 3 lakh commuters after the fare hike in October, there is an apprehension that by 2019, the metro fare will double itself. At the backdrop of the DMRC’s reticence on the issue, the question that various student quarters of DU are asking is, if Kolkata can have metro concessional passes for students, why can’t Delhi? While the aam janta shouts, “mehengi metro nahi chalegi” (costly metro will not be allowed), is the government listening?
Feature Image Credits: P.V. Purnima for DU Beat.
Vaibhavi Sharma Pathak