The Delhi finance department has questioned the rationale behind the Delhi government’s proposal to provide a flat subsidy of Rs 10 per commute for implementing the free rides for women scheme, irrespective of distance travelled. It has also cast doubts on the capacity of the existing bus fleet to handle the potential jump in ridership.
The department, replying to a draft Cabinet note on the proposal, suggested that the government focus on improving quality of bus services “instead of extending free passes”.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has already announced that the scheme will be launched on October 29. The government maintains offering free rides to women will help increase their participation in the workforce. However, the Delhi government’s finance department has pointed out that the draft Cabinet note is “silent on how misuse of free passes, especially during odd hours, will be prevented,” sources told The Indian Express.
The department asked if the possibility of monthly or annual passes was considered. While the DTC came up with three options, including special passes, the government is inclined to roll out the scheme through special tickets instead of passes to help gauge demand better.
“It also pointed out that the transport department has made the proposal based on a day-long study of about 32,000 passengers. If the proposal of free ridership is implemented, there would be a huge increase in female ridership in buses. However, the existing fleet may not be able to cater to this increase,” a senior official said.
On subsidies, the department has questioned the logic of the Rs 10 per journey proposal. “Why should we not go for the actual denomination based on the distance travelled?” the official said.
Since the finance department has committed requisite funds for the scheme despite its reservations, it has suggested that the transport department consider alternative sources of revenue, to “offset the subsidy amount”.