April 2, 2021 5:14:11 am
The Congress government in Punjab Thursday launched a free travel facility for women in state-run buses claiming to have fulfilled yet another pre-poll promise even as the main Opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accused it putting a “half-hearted” attempt in implementing the scheme that it said was a “poor copy” of a similar initiative by the party government in Delhi.
Launching the initiative, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Sinmgh said, “With this, we have fulfilled another poll manifesto promise”.
Claiming that a record 85 per cent of pre-poll promises have been implemented, Amarinder said his government is now moving towards realising 100 per cent of its commitments made before the 2017 Assembly elections.
Pointing out that other parties were now promising free travel for women in states going to polls, he said that while others talk about women empowerment, his government has taken several concrete measures to achieve it.
“In fact, while the promise of my government was to reduce ticket price for women by 50 per cent, we have gone ahead to made it totally free,” he said, urging private bus operators to also understand their social responsibility and reduce the tariff.
Women can avail this scheme in government-owned buses, including Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC), Punjab Roadways Buses (PUNBUS) and city bus services operated by the Local Bodies Department. However, it is not applicable to the government-owned AC, Volvo and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) buses.
Expressing concerns over the crime against women, the chief minister said his government is committed to their safety and the Transport Department is installing the GPS in all government and private buses to enable easy tracking of the vehicles, in addition to panic buttons for emergencies.
The process is nearly complete for government buses and private operators have been asked to get this done by August 31, he said.
Announcing that 25 more bus stations will be built in the state to improve road connectivity, he said the free travel scheme will give a boost to his government’s vision of inclusive growth.
He said around 33,000 women will get jobs in the state this year and added that a large number of girl students have been provided with smartphones to help them study during the pandemic.
During a virtual launch of the scheme across 1,036 locations, Surinder Kaur, who boarded a bus from Baghapurana to Jalandhar to fetch medicines, said she was surprised to discover it.
However, the Aam Aadmi Party dubbed the announcement as “hollow”, saying that private buses that operate on maximum routes in the state were not part of this facility.
AAP Punjab co-incharge Raghav Chadha accused Amarinder of making a “half-hearted” attempt in implementing the scheme.
Interacting with the media here, Chadha said, “More than 70 per cent buses running on main routes in Punjab are are private. The government has not made travel free for women in private buses nor announced any reduction in their fares. In government buses too, AC and Volvo buses are not free. Also, women travelling in Punjab government buses outside the state will have to pay the difference of fare while travelling outside state boundaries”.
Chadha said private buses run mostly on link roads. “The buses connecting villages to the cities and those connecting villages to other villages are almost private, so how is the Captain government claiming to provide free bus facility to women?” he asked.
“Captain government should also provide free electricity to the people in Punjab like in Delhi…,” he said.
He added that AAP would soon launch a state-wide agitation and “ensure that Capt Amarinder Singh is forced to lower the power tariffs in the state”.
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