Women will have a choice to travel free on buses and the Metro in the national capital in the next two-three months, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced Monday, calling it an investment in women safety and their participation in the workforce.
Kejriwal told a press conference that the Delhi government will bear the cost of implementing the measure in some 5,500 buses run by the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS), and the 373-km Metro network across Delhi NCR.
“Women feel unsafe in Delhi and their safety is paramount for our government. Public transport is considered to be the safest mode of travel and taking this into account, we have decided to make travel free for women on the Metro, DTC buses and cluster buses,” he said.
The Delhi government has directed departments and agencies concerned to work out the modalities of the proposal within a week. Subsequently, it will have to be vetted and cleared by the Cabinet, while an assembly session will be convened to allot the subsidy.
Flanked by Deputy CM Manish Sisodia and Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, Kejriwal said the government has decided against forcing the subsidy on anyone, acknowledging that there are women who may not like to avail free rides. “There are women who can afford the Metro and bus fares, and they are free to purchase tickets. It will essentially also help subsidise those who actually need it,” he said.
Kejriwal said that going by preliminary estimates, if the scheme is implemented for around six months in 2019, the Delhi government will have to spend around Rs 700-800 crore.
Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDC) vice-chairman Jasmine Shah said that due to Delhi’s revenue surplus status, financing it won’t be a problem.
Kejriwal said around 30-33 per cent of the total ridership in the Metro and buses each are women. Shah said the estimates are based on spot surveys carried out in recent months. DMRC is used by around 25 lakh people on daily basis while the total bus ridership stands at around 40 lakh daily. The DMRC did not offer an immediate reaction to the proposal.
According to Shah, the plan was set in motion a few months ago, and the government was waiting for procurement of buses, so its fleet could be augmented before the announcement. “We did not want the system to get choked,” Shah said. “A few spot surveys to ascertain the share of women in public transport were also commissioned.”
The BJP dismissed the move as a “poll gimmick” while the Congress asked Kejriwal to desist from making promises “that cannot be fulfilled”.
“What did Kejriwal do to ensure safety of women in the last four years? After losing all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, Kejriwal is again trying to lure voters by offering free rides in Metro and buses for women to hoodwink them ahead of the assembly polls scheduled early next year,” former Union Minister Vijay Goel said.“Wat happened 2 ur promises of CCTV & marshals in buses? Since last 5 years we hear dat new buses r coming but infact DTC fleet is reduced by 1400 buses. Metro is delayed 4 1st time. Women wud prefer safer, surer & more frequent availability of public transport rather than free rides (sic),” Delhi Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee tweeted.