‘Whataboutism’ aside, the policy to enable free and safe public transport to women speaks volumes about how radically progressive and apt is the AAP government for Delhi.Deepak Kaistha| Editor-in-Chief | DKODING Media
- Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made a significant announcement of 100 percent subsidy to women in Delhi Metro, and Government Buses.
- The policy aims at encouraging more women to use public transport and at the same time ensuring their safety while travelling across the city.
- Criticism aside, the plan contributes to the cause of resolving gender-based crimes in the capital.
- Albeit partially, free and secure public transport works towards ensuring safety of women. But AAP faces significant roadblocks, and all rests on implementation.
India’s staggered elections and the hype they have recently started to create sometimes brainwashes us into assessing policies according to the electoral advantages they may produce.
Making safe public transport a right for women – in one of the world’s most unsafe city for them – is definitely a step in the correct direction.
India needs more kejriwals for spearheading measures like these in other parts of the country too.Preeti Khanuja | Founding Editor | DKODING Media
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal -led AAP government has come forth with an unprecedented plan to help Delhi shed its notoriety and become a safer city for women to stand up and embrace opportunities without fear.
The measure aims to inspire the confidence of the national capital’s women in the city’s public transport. It is a definite step towards ensuring their safety in a city where crimes against women are thrice the national average.
If Kejriwal can come up with such a radical scheme for the women of Delhi, then what is stopping other states from following suit with such measures for their female citizens!
Chitresh Sehgal, Editor | DKODING Media
No country for women
Delhi is a global city where multitudes of women still have to deal with oppression and gender-induced aggression. The city isn’t just holding on to the infamy but adding to it.
In 2012, the year of the famous rape cases that jolted the entire nation, Delhi noted 1433 cases of rape and molestation. In 2018, it bore witness to a horrific 5449 cases – a 280 percent rise. The overall crime rate between the same span of time in Delhi rose by just 18%.
Delhi’s metro and DTC bus networks are relatively safe modes of public transport. However, only around 25% of the 72 lakh total commuters on them are women, with the remaining having to settle for cheaper and unreliable options. This inability of large sections of Delhi’s women to avail safe environments restricts mobility, and in turn opportunities.
Specially not for poor women
The section of society the policy specifically targets is the significant sums of working class women in the national capital. These women are doubly marginalized due to their disadvantageous place financially as well as because of gender discrimination.
Public transport is considered safest for women and it being not available to poorer women restricts them to cheap private transport, riding bicycles or walking on foot to commute to colleges and work. The safety and comfort of ac buses and metro coaches isn’t affordable for the working class income in India.
“The decision has been taken so that women in large numbers can use public transport. Due to high fares, women cannot use public transport,” CM Arvind Kejriwal said when announcing the scheme.
Delhi Metro is safe but not cheap
A study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found out that the Delhi metro is the second most unaffordable subway service in the world. At an average of 14 percent toll on commuter’s incomes, it stands only second to the subway system in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The study also observed that an average unskilled daily wager has to part with 8 percent of their income to take a non-ac bus, 14 percent for an ac bus and 22% for the metro. The Delhi metro takes five times heavier toll on a commuter’s pocket than the New York Subway system.
In fact, the Metro lost significant share of customers after the price hike in 2018 when the number of customers fell by 32 percent from previous year. The fact that daily commute in the safe and secure, CISF-guarded subway system of Delhi is virtually unaffordable for the poor of the city, stands in contrast to the whole idea of having an efficient and expansive public transport system.
This has made the Delhi Metro a symbol of progress only for the lower-middle and middle class rather than ensuring holistic development for all sections of the city.
Financial Criticism is bogus – Metro is a social welfare scheme and not a business
People who would have travelled in the subway systems of global cities like New York and many others would have noticed a peculiar difference. Unlike the Delhi metro, the prices in many pioneering underground rail systems were set at a single ticket price, no matter how far one commutes.
It turns out that this structure emerges from the idea that such projects are developed for the benefit of working class people who invariably live in suburbs, but have to travel long distances to work in the city.
Such endeavours, given with the amount of money spent in building them, are usually not for profit. This makes subway systems visionary social welfare schemes that aren’t supposed to be businesses for profit but machines fed by governments to support economic opportunity to every possible citizen.
The fact that Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister and AAP senior leader Manish Sisodia echoed the same thought, in the government’s effort to provide a safer environment for its female citizens, speaks volumes of its intentions.
“Public transport is an investment to the welfare of people. If this decision results in increasing women safety then it is a big decision,” said Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia.
About Electoral gains
The announcement comes just over ten days after BJP swept the nation and AAP suffered a drubbing in its 40 parliamentary contests – winning only one. This gave fuel to criticism of the policy aimed at gaining advantage for the Delhi state elections, which will take place later this year.
CM Arvind Kejriwal was quick to refute criticism calling the scheme an electoral gimmick. He stated that there is no good time for rolling out welfare schemes.
It can be argued that all policies are made to invariably appeal to voters. But policies should also be determined by a perception of the needs of a region and a measure specifically aimed at women’s safety – a dire disappointment with Delhi – fits well with a progressive and egalitarian direction in governance.
The policy might turn out to be advantageous for AAP if it is executed with conviction and results. But, a remarkable aspect of such a step is that the vision the policy presents for the city transcends petty party politics.
No government would be crude enough to reverse a policy that works so bravely to act as a tool of women’s empowerment.
Empowerment for those who need it
The policy aims at those women who are unable to avail the safest modes of public transportation due to financial restrictions. In his press conference, the Chief Minister clearly mentioned that the subsidy will not be imposed and women who can afford it can buy their tickets.
“We encourage those, who can afford, to buy tickets and not take subsidy so that others could benefit,” Arvind Kejriwal said.
The measure works to reduce the disparity. Increasing the number of women in public transport means normalizing their presence in public spaces, and hence makes the environment safer and more comfortable for them.
It empowers a weaker section of the society that has until now not had the privilege to claim its right to one of the most advanced public amenities that Delhi has built for its citizens – a modern day master symbol for empowerment and progress of the masses.
For us, as Citizens of Delhi
As citizens of Delhi, we need to back a vision that aims to empower those at a disadvantage. We need to back the government and give it credit for its ambitious and noble vision. We need to question the vision’s feasibility, monitor its progress and contribute ideas towards its effective implementation.
The onus is on the AAP government to ensure that its radical scheme to safeguard underprivileged women achieves. A financial stress from a welfarist scheme never pinched any government, but benefits further fortify the path to a progressive and prosperous society.
If the initiative from AAP changes the appearance of Delhi even slightly, it has the potential to set off long-term changes in people’s mind set.
- Historically, subway systems are not meant as sustainable businesses but social welfarist schemes to empower the under-privileged and down-trodden.
- A study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found out that the Delhi metro is the second most unaffordable subway service in the world.
- For all its progress, Delhi still has a notoriously high crime rate against women – three times the national average.
- The policy specifically targets a significant section of working class women in Delhi who are doubly marginalized due financial disparity and gender oppression.