Delhi government works towards free city transport for women

7 Jun 19

Delhi’s government is pushing to make travel on city buses and the metro free for women in a bid to improve local women’s safety.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced the measure on Monday, which will cover 5,500 buses and the 373km Metro network across the territory and will be funded by the government of the metropolitan area covering India’s capital.

“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 told a press conference reported by The Indian Express.

Delhi has some of the highest rape statistics in India. Protests swept the country after the highly-publicised gang-rape and murder of a female student on a city bus in 2012.

The chief minister’s proposal has ignited debate among national commentators and social media users. Supporters cite the logistical difficulties and costs Delhi women face in arranging safe transport.

Atishi Marlena Singh, who sits on the political affairs committee of chief minister Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party, said: “As of now only 33% 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.”

Opponents have questioned whether dangers remaining at other stages of their journeys render the measure ineffective. Kejriwal has also been widely accused of vote-buying ahead of Delhi state assembly elections next year.

Preliminary government estimates put the scheme’s cost at over $100m each year, local media have reported. The chief minister has argued state governments could pay for it. 

Mr Kejriwal has directed officials to iron out the proposal within a week, which will then need to be approved by the Cabinet.

The proposal must also be approved by the federal government as it is an equity partner alongside Delhi in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.

A Delhi government official, cited by the Times of India, has warned that the Metro system does not currently have the technology to allow free commuter travel and may not be able to handle the additional pressure.

One year ago, Estonia announced it was to give its citizens free bus travel. 

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