I Can Afford My Delhi Metro Ride

Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, announced free rides in Delhi public transport for women. It’s another matter that this is just a proposal and is subject to approval. However, the timing of the proposal raises some doubts. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got a serious drubbing in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. Currently, AAP and Arvind Kejriwal are trying to stay relevant even more so for the nearing Delhi Assembly elections. It would not be unfair to see this as a strategy to boost voter confidence in them. Otherwise, what would have stopped them for announcing this earlier? They came to power in 2015 with the promise of providing women safety. Sadly, not much has been done in that direction since then.

Leaving the politics aside, I have a problem with the proposal. Free rides to boost safety? Really? The corollary to this would be that just because women were paying for their own travel, they were unsafe. Doesn’t this sound absurd?

One AAP minister said that free travel would be an incentive for women to travel by public transport instead of using unsafe means of transport like rickshaws. This is logically flawed. A political party that cannot provide safety in one mode of transport is vouching for safety in another. We all know this is not true. DTC buses or metro provide no assurance of safety for women.

Women need assurance that they would be safe when they venture out of their homes, irrespective of the time of day. Their mode of transport or means of payment should not matter.

Women who travel by metro or women, in general, these days can afford to pay for their public transport. Most of these women are from the middle class and are working. Why dole out freebies to women who can easily afford their travel? Just like reservation should not be based on caste but economic status, freebies should not be given based on gender but economic status.

Women do not need sympathy, but a change in the mindset of the perpetrators of crime. Dear Chief Minister of Delhi, or for that matter all people in positions of power, please take steps to make women safe in your cities. We are willing to let go off some freebies for it.

The Chief Minister of Delhi says that this move would cost the Delhi government Rs. 700 crore this year, but it is ready to make this sacrifice for its women. Really? Can you be 100 per cent sure? Let this Rs. 700 crore be used for installing CCTVs (that function) at various corners of the city. Do not offer piecemeal steps in the name of safety. Even after travelling for free in metro or DTC buses, the women need to travel by autos or rickshaws to their destinations. Please try to improve the feeder services.

Above all, if there is any heinous crime against a woman, make sure there is a speedy trial in the case and certainty of punishment. Certainty of punishment can act as a deterrent for people with criminal minds.

I do not represent any public forum or women’s group. However, I can safely say that many women would agree with me. We do not need freebies. We need safety and freedom to be safe within our very own country. Can you assure this? If not, then please do not use our gender to propagate your political interests.

Government’s first duty and highest obligation is public safety, and free public transport is surely not a step in that direction.

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About the Author: Shobhika Puri

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