The debate on free public transport for women in Delhi is still hot and I'd like to add some fuel to that fire. What is with politicians and freebies? Is it like their brahmastra when all else fails? Something to dole out as a huge favour to the naive citizenry like a lollipop every now and then? Or (and I firmly believe this is the real deal) a palliative to push real issues under the carpet in an apparent act of sugarcoated benevolence? The classic distraction technique taught at the University of Political Drama Inc!
As a woman, I am very offended by such offers and I'll tell you why. First of all, we have to reconfirm the basic funda that there's nothing like a "free lunch". Go back to your economics books guys. Free is one of the biggest myths of the commercial era. As a citizen and a consumer you've got to understand that anything toted around as "free" is a whitewash for a hidden agenda, you need to arrive at that hidden agenda before lapping up such sham offers. Why women only? Why free?
Most of the times though it’s quite amusing that leaders and companies offer you your basic rights wrapped in this fancy package called "free" to make you think it's a huge act of altruism when actually it's those very leaders and companies who gain in the long run and the short too for that matter. That's political gaslighting at its very best and it's been going on for ages. Dear voter, it's your basic right being offered in fancy packaging.
As a woman, I am very offended by such offers and I'll tell you why. First of all, we have to reconfirm the basic funda that there's nothing like a "free lunch". Go back to your economics books guys. Free is one of the biggest myths of the commercial era.
Objection #2: Why women? How is a man from a not-so-economically affluent background NOT eligible for this so-called dole? If it is a "need-based" scheme, which it should be in a democracy where janta pays taxes, how is it not extended to male students who have to travel miles to get to their schools and colleges? Or men working in various organisations who slog half their lives slugging it out in poorly maintained public transport?
Objection #3: What exactly is the motive behind the scheme? How does it really help when women's safety is questionable, equality is non-existent and a whole lot of women are still far from actually taking charge of their lives? One has to dig deep. There's no point flickering about with symptoms when the malice runs deep.
There are a whole lot of other tactical loopholes in the freebie, but what offends me most is the thinking that women can be bought over by such lame offers. All that this move does is save a few pennies leaving us pound foolish. Haven't we all grown up with the saying "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." What happened to the teaching? And also remember that the "free" ride will eventually come out of your pocket because your taxes will fund it. So there, do the simple maths.
What exactly is the motive behind the scheme? How does it really help when women's safety is questionable and equality is non-existent.
Oh I get it, I guess till things are spelled out in black and white they are not clear, especially to the powers that be, so let me re-phrase the old saying in modern context: "Give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day; teach her how to fish and you feed her for a lifetime!" Get it? It's the "teaching", not the "feeding" that women want, and even there just make the environment conducive to that "teaching" we women are very capable of managing the rest ourselves, thank you, Sir!
In other words, our leaders need to please move on to bigger things like ensuring better job opportunities, safe travel, effective public transport, pay parity, freedom of speech and most importantly creating a harassment-free environment of equal growth and empowerment. Women, especially in India, are raring to go and grow. They have always had the capability, now go on give them the right opportunity if you really care instead of feeble freebies. I actually dare you!
It’s been said, “there is no tool more effective for development than empowering women” so if you want to give women something – let it be FREEdom to wear what she wants, to marry whom she wants, to not have kids if she chooses, to work late into the night, to live life on her terms, to speak her mind, to be bale to reach out in need, to feel loved, to feel respected, to finally break shackles and soar. Can you do it? Feel free to answer … or not!
Gunjan Pant Pande speaks her mind in her short stories, blogs, opinion pieces and poems. When not on mom duty she reads, writes, travels, watches re-runs of stand-ups, photographs, paints, knits, chats up her girl gang and cooks soul food with her twist! The views expressed are the author’s own