Eighty-eight per cent of women and 78% of men back the Delhi government’s decision to make bus travel free for women, an opinion survey among 2,298 Delhi voters by the Lokniti programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) has revealed.
To assess what people thought of the scheme, rolled out by the Aam Aadmi Party government on October 29, voters spread across all parliamentary seats of the capital were posed a neutrally worded question: “Do you support or oppose the government’s decision to make DTC bus travel free for women and to what extent?” Eighty-three per cent expressed their support, with 69% endorsing it strongly (table 1). And while the degree of support among men and women differed, a majority of men were also found to be in favour of the scheme.
In the survey, 84% of all respondents said they use the bus, of which 51% use it regularly, that is, either daily or weekly (table 3). Among women, the proportion of regular bus users was found to be 49%.
Based on these findings, it could be argued that the initial apprehension that men would not take kindly to a scheme may have been unfounded.
Support for the free bus travel scheme differed according to the economic status of the respondent — women belonging to households with higher income levels were found to be a good 15 percentage points less likely to favour the scheme than those from low income households. In terms of age too, differences were noticed, as women from the youngest age bracket (18-25 years) were found to favour free bus travel five percentage points more than senior citizens. This is most probably because the survey also found young women to be travelling by buses far more (65%) than middle aged (47%) and elderly women (37%).
Respondents were also asked their opinion about the AAP government’s proposal to make travel free for women in the Delhi Metro, an idea that has been criticised by the Supreme Court as being economically impractical. On this too, most respondents expressed approval, though not to the same extent as their support for free travel in buses. As many as 75% were in favour of making Metro travel free for women, with women once again expressing more support than men — the difference between them being 14 percentage points (table 2). Once again, there was hardly any difference between Metro users and non-users when it came to supporting the idea.
The survey also tried to gauge public opinion on Delhi Metro fares that had been hiked in 2017. Respondents were asked whether they considered the Metro fares low, high or appropriate. Only a little over one-third (35%) described the fares as being either appropriate or low (table 4). Over half (54%) felt they were high, while the rest did not offer an opinion.On the other hand, the percentage of those who thought that the existing bus fares are high was only 5%. What’s more, even among respondents from high income households, a majority felt that the Metro fares were high.
The survey also found a decrease/stagnation in the popularity of the Metro as the most preferred mode of transport, and a simultaneous rise in bus usage as compared to the past. When voters were asked an open-ended question as to which mode of transport they use the most to travel in Delhi from one point to another, 17% said it was the Delhi Metro (table 7). Nearly five years ago in February 2015, when Lokniti had asked the same question (before the fare hike), the figure had been slightly higher at 19%. In contrast, the proportion of respondents saying that bus is their most used mode of transport has risen from 31% in 2015 to 36% now. Moreover, daily usage of buses was found to be twice as high as the daily usage of the Metro — 22% to 11%.
That said, respondents made a clear distinction between their perception of Metro fares and that of Metro services. While they considered fares to be high, they were also highly satisfied with Metro services. Nearly nine of every ten Metro users said services had either improved during the past few years or were as good as before (table 5). Bus services were also seen as having improved, but to a slightly lesser extent.
(Shreyas Sardesai is Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS. Biswajit Mohanty is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi. He is also the State Coordinator of Lokniti-CSDS in Delhi.)
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