Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, on June 3, announced metro rides, DTC bus rides and feeder buses will be made free for women in Delhi. He added that the government plans to implement the move in three months. This year alone, the programme would cost the state Rs 700 crore.
The first question popped up was – Would it result in a fare hike again? Or the taxpayers’ money will be utilised for sops? Kejriwal said his government would bear the cost of free rides for women on the Delhi Metro and public buses.
“Delhi is the only government that is honest and is spending your money on facilities and is still running on profit,” Kejriwal said.
Many pointed out that the move will only hurt the finances of an already debt-ridden Delhi metro. The Aam Aadmi Party said the DMRC will not suffer because of this. AAP said the ticket revenue lost by Delhi Metro will be reimbursed fully by the Delhi government.
Despite this, the move has left a group of commuters perplexed and full of questions.
Who will benefit the most from this move?
“As of now only 33 per cent of Metro commuters are women. The fare hike last year hit women the worst forcing them to shift to more unsafe modes of transport like private buses, ride sharing, or even walking. This move will help them return to the Metro’s safety. More women in any public spaces automatically makes those spaces safer for women. This move will help women reclaim public spaces,” said AAP’s Atishi.
The claim has been refuted by multiple female commuters. The most important argument is that last metro ride isaround 11 pm.
What about the safety of women who are out at night and are forced to take a cab at exorbitant fares, risking unruly driver behaviour?
The ideal way to deal with this situation and ensure safety is to increase the plying hours of metro.
There is a huge number of women who work as daily wage labourers and students from lower economic strata who come to Delhi for studies, are the people who actually qualify for these rebates.
They are forced to take buses, which of course, are not as safe as the metro. Once the metro rides are free, these women and teenage girls can avail the facility of free-of-cost, safer public transport. Marginalised women, for whom travelling on a metro has never been a part of lifestyle and who deem metro a luxury, will be able to make use of the service without spending a penny.
Last time, when the metro fares were hiked, there was a sudden reduction in demand. Daily ridership fell by over 300,000 after the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation raised its fares in 2017.
As of now, travelling 4 kilometres on metro costs Rs 20, while a bus ride for the same distance costs Rs 10.
Studies across various sectors have demonstrated that men and women use public transport differently. In India, even in the car-owning households, it is women who work around different modes of public transport and usually men take the private vehicle. Women’s multiple care-taking responsibilities often results in use of public transport and may have to pay for multiple single-fare tickets.
Many women tend to opt out of labour force due to travel. In the world’s fastest growing economy, contribution of women is imperative and if that contribution can be brought in through free public modes of transport, it’s worth it.