RDS_190603 Delhi women to ride for free-1559556487285
New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal speaks as Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot looks on, during a press conference at Delhi Secretariat, in New Delhi, Monday, June 3, 2019. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)(PTI6_3_2019_000059B) Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: In a first of its kind in India, Delhi government announced that it would offer women free public transport on buses and the Metro to address safety concerns.

Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, held a press conference today to announce that India’s capital would make the move in the next three months.

“Women can avail free rides on all DTC [Delhi Transport Corporation] buses, cluster buses and Delhi Metro. The plan is to encourage women to use public transport, which is considered the safest mode of transport,” Kejriwal said.

He added that this was an optional subsidy and women who could afford to buy the ticket should do so, “so that the subsidy can be provided to others”.

According to a report by Indian news agency IANS, Kejriwal said the step would not only encourage women to use public transport more but also increase their participation in the workforce.

He also said that the scheme would cost the Delhi government an estimated Rs700 crore [Dh371million] for the remaining financial year. “No clearance from the Centre is required for this,” Kejriwal said.

Delhi, which has the status of a ‘National Capital Territory’ requires clearance from the central government for several administrative processes. To end what they call bureaucratic hurdles, a demand for full statehood has been pushed by the ruling Aam Admi Party.

Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister said: “The Delhi government considers this a big investment in women’s security.”

Online reaction

This announcement by the Delhi government quickly became one of the top talking points online, with many users excited with the move.

Tweep @PreetiSMenon wrote: “For those who don’t know about modes of transport in Delhi - Metro & DTC buses are safe but expensive compared to private buses, shared rickshaws and other informal, un-monitored modes of transport. By giving girls free travel by Metro Delhi Govt has enabled them to travel safely.”

Another Twitter user @swetadutta27 wrote: “Both my domestic helpers, who walk 6-8 kms from Dakshinpuri to Alaknanda every day in this heat, are ecstatic. They can now take buses. They’re also planning a joyride in the metro which they haven’t had the luxury to take in 10 years they’ve been in town. Well done @ArvindKejriwal.”

Tweep @dhruv_rathee commented on other cities in the world that have successfully implemented free public transport. He tweeted: “Many European Cities have free public transport for all residents - Dunkirk (France), Tallinn (Estonia), Luxembourg would soon become first country to do so. But none of them are as big as Delhi, would be interesting to see implementation here.”

In a following tweet he added: “This decision in Dunkirk (France) was a massive success, many other French and German cities have been wanting to adopt this also. The revenue was compensated by introducing a transport tax of 1.5 per cent on companies with more than 11 employees.”

Unfair preference?

Many Twitter users, however, complained about how the decision would be unfair to men.

Tweep @rahuldesai70 wrote: “Why the preferential treatment for women? They already have allocated seats and an entire compartment.

Another Twitter user @mdabdullah70 added: “This is not a good idea … instead they have to build safe and green transport infrastructure ...”

An AAP worker, Akshay Marathe responded to many queries online on the implementation of the decision. Responding to a query on how exactly such a decision would improve women’s safety, he tweeted: “It incentivises women who cannot afford to take the Metro to start using it, which is a safer option for them than using ride sharing, autos, private buses at night,”

Freebies not the answer

Many social media users also felt that the decision was made keeping the 2020 assembly elections in mind, where the party wished to return to power.

Tweep @DrDilipRajput wrote: “If you want India to develop like Singapore, you need to focus on capitalism rather than socialism.”