Delhi Chief Minister- Arvind Kejriwal announced free DTC bus rides for women following Tuesday. Special pink-colored tickets have been printed for this special facility, with the picture of Kejriwal on the back of it. The public buses in Delhi carry over 45 lakh passengers each day, of which 30% are women. The free ride scheme in buses and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation was announced in June and has sought quite some time to implement the scheme. The Delhi Assembly has also approved a grant of Rs150 crore for implementation of the scheme in this, as every day over 10,000 women travel by metro. This bhai dooj Kejriwal has been trying to please the women voters of Delhi with his kind gesture when the elections are just around the corner.
Looking at the bigger picture, free bus rides are not going to tackle other problems women face on those buses. Seat reservations for special and pregnant women, eve-teasing, etc. have also been some major daily issues women face on Delhi public transport. Even these problems demand special attention. Mr. Kejriwal has not yet found the solution to other problems of his “sisters” in Delhi. And why do only elections wake these ministers up? Does free ride also mean a safe ride? However, the proportion of women commuting on private transportation will not switch over because saving a few rupees has no significance for them, they are more concerned about their safety, timely access and last-mile connectivity. Secondly, there is one more section of the society who are more in need of such schemes- differently-abled people. That section is not of potential voters hence, they are barred from such facilities. They need it more than women. Other than that, these measures will do more harm than good. It will put a cap on government expenditure. Budgets of important sectors like education, health will be cut down to accommodate the freebies. AAP Government which claims to be an alternative of mainstream politics needs to work on the key institutional changes and most importantly on the security and safety of women.
Women voters in Delhi take up a major portion of the vote band, but at the same time, women are also not very satisfied with the attention provided to their daily ongoing problems. With the upcoming 2020 elections, maintaining visibility among Delhites may not be that bad for Aam Aadmi Party, which failed to perform as per expectations in the previous years. The clever stunt of implementing the scheme on bhai dooj- the festival celebrating the protection bond of love between brother and sister has been smartly used. Many of the Delhi sisters may have accepted Kejriwal’s gift, but would the sisters return that gift in votes? Delhi government should be paying attention to the genuine needs of the public rather than fetching votes. The need of the hour is that of differently-abled citizens and not women.