Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said that his government has proposed to make public transport free for women. This means that women will not have to pay for rides in DTC, cluster buses and Delhi Metro. The move is being implemented as a safety measure. But is this move fair to men from a poor economic background? Is the Kejriwal government assuming that most women are financially dependent and can’t even afford to buy a bus ticket? It is certainly not so, then why should those who can, be able to avail this scheme? Shouldn’t access to public transport be made free to all the students and adults who cannot afford, irrespective of their gender, instead?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Arvind Kejriwal Government has proposed that public transport be made free for women in Delhi.
  • He says the move will ensure women’s safety in the city.
  • But aren’t men vulnerable to crimes as well?
  • Such a biased decision will only deepen the rift between the two genders and put the cause of gender equality at risk.  

Shouldn’t access to public transport be made free to all the students and adults who cannot afford, irrespective of their gender, instead?

According to Kejriwal, access to free public transport will keep women from harm’s way. He said, “Right now our concern is the safety of women. There are questions regarding the metro, but we will let you know how the proposal evolves at every step.” This means that women will not have to take risks like commuting through secluded areas on foot, or having to ask for a lift from a stranger, both a risky move in a city like Delhi. However, would a woman who can afford a bus ticket take such a risk? Then what is the point of making an exemption for financially well-off women here? Besides, this line of thought also assumes that men aren’t vulnerable to sexual crimes. Any man travelling alone from a secluded area in a hostile city is vulnerable to numerable crimes, sexual or otherwise.

Protection and comfort of citizens is a priority which shouldn’t be influenced by gender.

Thus, instead of exempting women from paying up from public transport altogether, it should be made free for students and people from the low-income background of all genders. A person may argue that if we are advocating equality here, why do women need reserved seats on a bus or train? That is a different issue altogether. Public transport, like most outdoor spaces, remains a male-dominated space in India. Thus it is perceived as hostile and uninviting by women, hence, to reserve a seat for them means creating a space for them in a world where they feel uninvited. It invites them to foray in this unchartered territory and makes them feel welcomed.

This means that women will not have to take risks like commuting through secluded areas on foot, or having to ask for a lift from a stranger, both a risky move in a city like Delhi. However, would a woman who can afford a bus ticket take such a risk?

Granting a free ride may motivate the wrong kind of entitlement among women?

Granting a free ride may also seem encouraging on the surface, to create an inclusive space, but it also motivates the wrong kind of entitlement among women. If they are earning or have personal wealth, they must contribute to the system by paying for the services they avail. Public transport, after all, doesn’t run on virtues and ideas, it runs on money. It needs fuel, maintenance, and those who sustain the system need to be paid. Exempting one half of the population from paying the fair will put a financial burden on the system, that too an unnecessary one. As it has been revealed in the NDTV new report, the move will be implemented in three months and would cost the Delhi government Rs 700 crore this year.

Women of this country deserve equality no doubt. But this shouldn’t come at the cost of alienation from men. Such schemes, which give well-to-do women an uncalled advantage over men only deepens the rift between the genders. What we want is equal pay scale and end of discrimination on the basis of gender at workplaces, so that we can pay for our own tickets. We need rights on fair grounds, and not privilege on unfair grounds.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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