<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after an RTI revealed that the Metro lost over three lakh commuters a day due to the fare increase, Union Minister of State Hardeep Singh Puri claimed that the dip in ridership cannot be linked to the fare hike effected in October.”The fare hike has not led to a decline in Metro ridership. For example, in 2016, there was a ridership dip by 1.3 lakh from September to October when there was no change in fares,” he said.The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing and Urban Affairs further explained that despite the increase, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s (DMRC) fares were among the “lowest in the world” and the “lowest in India”.His comments came hours after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been opposing the fare hike, tweeted against it.”This steep hike in metro fare will kill Delhi Metro. If people stop using it, then what purpose does it serve”,” Kejriwal tweeted.According to the RTI query, the Metro’s daily average ridership came down to 24.2 lakh in October from 27.4 lakh in September, a fall of around 11 per cent.The Blue Line, considered the Metro’s busiest, lost over 30 lakh commuters, according to data shared by the DMRC in response to an RTI query. The 50-km corridor connects Dwarka to Noida and the Metro currently has a 218-km network across Delhi-NCR.On October 10, the DMRC effected the fare hike, leading to a rise of around Rs 10 for nearly every distance slab. This came barely five months of another hike of up to 100 per cent.Puri said that every year, there are a few months that see an increase in ridership and a decline is observed in others. “On previous occasions of fare increase, there were at times a temporary dip in ridership which recovered shortly. Ridership in November has shown a rising trend,” the union minister said.However, according to the DMRC’s records, the fall in October was the steepest ever. The Metro has been logging a daily average ridership between 27 lakh and 28 lakh over the recent years, with minor variations.Seeking to defend the fare hike, Puri said that Metro fares are neither fixed by the Centre or the Delhi government, both of which hold equal stakes in the DMRC, and pointed out that it was after a gap of eight years that the fares had been hiked.”When the new fixation committee was formed, they decided that since the fares were not hiked during the last eight years, the increase would happen in two segments, one in May and the other in October,” Puri said.He also said that the Metro is a capital intensive project and if it has to be run efficiently, it’s “long-term liabilities in terms of loan repayment” need to be discharged timely”.”DMRC has a loan of Rs 28,268 crore from JICA. So far, they have only paid Rs 1,507 crore. For the current year, they have to pay Rs 890 crore towards principal and interest liability,” he said.