The Delhi Metro, Peace and Human Rights

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For years, I’ve put up a Peace Week post about the Delhi Metro. I travel by metro to work almost every day, and I enjoy the time I get to read, listen to a podcast, or talk with my daughter about school or life in general.

I’ve always enjoyed the metro because that’s where I get to see all kinds of people: young people, old people, short people, tall people– stand-up-straight people, lean-against-a wall people.

The metro has never been perfect. But peace isn’t about perfection. It’s about learning how to share spaces with people from all walks of life. The metro is about traveling together, not racing ahead. That’s why in my family we don’t leave home without our Delhi Metro Smart cards.

In many ways, the Delhi metro has improved this year. New lines make it easier to get to new parts of the city. But recently, something’s changed, and all our talk about human rights this week has made me think about the changes on the metro in a new way.

On the metro, I used to be able to get most of the way to work for 13.5 rupees. Now, the same trip costs me 27 rupees.  Fares have doubled for many trips in the city. For me, that’s not a big deal. But for millions of hard working residents of Delhi, higher fares have made the metro too expensive–these people now have to walk, take a crowded bus, or a motor bike. A recent investigation by The Hindu shows that in spite of having many more trains and lines, average daily ridership on the Delhi Metro is lower than it was in 2015! 

What does that have to do with human rights? The metro cost a lot of money to build and expand. Most of that investment came from the government. There are many good reasons to spend money on the metro: reducing Delhi’s air pollution is one. Providing a means for people to get to work quickly and safely is another.

But when government officials decided to expand the metro, they had to use money that could have gone to education, health care, enforcement of child labor laws and many other things that would help give more people access to human rights. That must have been a difficult choice.

India does have to make choices with the limited resources it has. There’s not enough money to do everything we’d like to do. But I have to wonder: when we choose to spend public money on the metro instead of education or health care, shouldn’t everyone have access to it? In the long run, we’d all benefit: the more people who ride the metro, the cleaner our air will be–and clean air is something every human needs!

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