How many birds can this stone kill? Aimed primarily at the low-income strata of society, Arvind Kejriwal’s free bus rides for women has received a strong response from the citizenry. The burden is being borne jointly by the Delhi Transport Corporation and the government which is reimbursing DTC Rs 10 per pass issued to female passengers which is coloured a cheery pink. Sniggering critics see it as pandering to the electorate ahead of the Assembly elections in 2020. They sneer that there are no brakes on this bus of freebies.
But pink is the colour of freedom for the working class woman in Delhi. Often denied her share of the family income, if available, she frequently has no money to travel a moderate distance from her home, if only to fulfil her needs. For her, this scheme spells jobs and prosperity.
Now, the CM’s dream is on a grander scale. He proposes that the safety in numbers thus created will also encourage more affluent women to step out and exponentially boost overall female labour force participation, currently at 10 per cent in the national capital. But his logic is flawed because women’s safety is at best a dubious bogey. Women as a demographic are at least as patriarchal as men and well-to-do women are socialised to mistake comfort for security. Predictably, they have been asking for more public transport. Delhi does not have point-to-point bus connectivity but it does have a Grameen Seva network and, in many pockets, a shared auto service.
Hence should buses also be made available, their eventual participation in the odd-even pollution control scheme remains an imponderable....