The Delhi government plans to allow women to travel free in DTC and cluster buses and Delhi Metro within the next three months by providing a subsidy, a move dismissed as an election gimmick by the BJP and the Congress. Putting an additional burden of around Rs 700-800 crore in the current financial year, when implemented by August-September, the scheme will benefit around 8 lakh women who use the Metro every day.
“Women account for about 30 to 33 per cent of all the commuters in Delhi. They can avail free rides on all DTC buses, cluster buses and Delhi Metro,” Kejriwal told the media.
“The plan is to encourage women to use public transport, which is considered the safest mode of transport,” he added.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said that officers had been asked to frame a detailed proposal in a week for both the Metro and state-run Delhi Transport Corp (DTC).
“We are trying to get the scheme implemented within 2-3 months,” he said. The scheme will not be “imposed” on anyone and will help women who don’t use Metro due to high fares.
“Women who can afford can buy tickets. We would encourage them to do so, so that the subsidy can be provided to others.”
Kejriwal also said that since they were not making any change in the Metro fare, the Central government’s permission was not required. “The subsidy cost will be paid by the Delhi government.”
He said the scheme would cost the Delhi government Rs 700-800 crore for the remaining financial year.
A special Budget Session of the Assembly will be called and the Delhi Cabinet’s nod will be taken, he said.
According to Kejriwal, the step would not only encourage women to use public transport more but also increase their participation in the workforce.
“The female workforce participation nationally is 27 per cent, but it is only 11 per cent in Delhi… We hope the scheme will encourage more and more of our womenfolk to go out to work.”
Kejriwal said the scheme will not impose any congestion in the Metro as its capacity was 40 lakh.
“The ridership of the Metro was 28 lakh per day in March 2017. Today, it has dropped to 25 lakh, after the metro fares were hiked. This step will add an extra one lakh female passengers to the daily ridership. There will be no congestion in the Metro.”
Kejriwal sought suggestions from the public on the scheme.
However, there can be a few issues in the implementation of the scheme as the city government and the Centre are equal partners (50-50) in the Delhi Metro Rail Corp.
BJP MP Vijay Goel accused the AAP of misleading people.
“They have lost all the seven seats in Delhi (in Lok Sabha) and are now looking for different ways to fool people for the Assembly elections,” Goel said.
A senior Congress leader added: “It is all for elections.”
Delhi will see Assembly elections in late 2019 or early 2020.
Asked about possible linkages with the elections, Kejriwal said: “We have rolled out several unique schemes for the people.”
Many social media users questioned the logic behind the plan.
Kejriwal said the plan was to encourage women to use public transport, which is considered safest mode of transport.
“Metro is from certain point to another point – we have to take auto/bus in the night to reach home,” a user pointed out, questioning the logic of free ride.
Former Congress spokesperson and current Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi took to Twitter to oppose the plan.
“With all due respect, women in Delhi didn’t ask for a free pass to ride when they voted for Kejriwal ji, they had voted for the safe environment promised to them,” she said.
“Hate to remind this, but Nirbhaya was gangraped in a bus in Delhi. At that time the country didn’t protest over free rides for the women but for making the capital safe for its women to be able to take a bus or metro at any time of the day. Get your priorities right!,” she added.
However, one user pointed out that the horrific incident occurred in a private bus.
“Typical Kejriwal law – women given free ride (irrespective of income level). But poor daily wage labourers will pay full fare. Nonsense,” wrote another user, again questioning the rationale behind the plan.
However, the Delhi CM found support in filmmaker Pritish Nandy.
“Women in Delhi will get a free ride on buses and the metro. What a wonderful idea!,” he wrote. “Will Mumbai emulate this? All the trouble we are going through for the construction of the metro will then be worth it,” he said.
Kejriwal, in a tweet, thanked Nandy for his support. But many users criticised the filmmaker for his tweet.
“They should increase your tax rate to fund this. I think then it’ll be fair :),” wrote one user.
“How many passengers are YOU willing to fund @PritishNandy? Start by putting money where ur mouth is, no?,” wrote Anuraag Saxena.
Some, however, expressed hope that free ride for women in Metro and bus would increase the use of public transport by women.
“Very True. More women will take up public transport,” said one female user.
Soon after the Delhi government announced its plan to allow women to travel for free in Delhi Metro, DTC buses and cluster buses in the national capital within the next three months, women hailed the proposal but questioned the government over their security.
Srishti Singh, a 22-year-old Delhi University student, said the government should rather use the money on planning new ways to enhance women’s security.
“The moment you make something free, people start acting differently. The government may say that those who can afford should buy tickets, but everyone will go for the free option. Public transport facilities — both the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and the Delhi Metro — are anyways overloaded. The proposed move to make them free for women will put more burden on them,” she said.
The overcrowded metro coaches and buses are like open invitation to the harassers, she added.
“There are no GPS or real time tracking of DTC buses. The metro covers most of the areas, but it does not provide door-to-door transport. We eventually have to take a bus or an auto. The government should plan to make these modes of transportation safer,” Singh added.
For 40-year-old Sandhya Shukla, the free part does not make much of a difference.
“I know the Delhi government would say that the police are not under them, but did it look for innovative ideas for women’s safety? Those stepping out for study or work can afford to pay a little amount for public transport,” she said.
Shukla also said that women were not demanding free travel, but security.
“Only a handful of buses have GPS or female conductors. Why can’t all the buses have women as conductors? This would at least give a sense of security to those travelling at odd hours. This is just one suggestion. They have their own teams which can look at more such ideas. But sadly all the political parties are the same and want an easy way out,” she said.
A 32-year-old woman employee of the Delhi Secretariat, who did not wish to be named, said that no one was talking about women’s safety.
“It is not about the cost of travel, but safety which should be looked upon. Rich or poor, women’s safety in public transports is a cause of concern. This step will help those who find it difficult to pay for these transports. But who is talking about their safety,” she asked. (IANS)