The Delhi government’s plan to make travel for women free is a double-edged sword. It might benefit womankind in encouraging them to move around freely to suit their multitasking ways while offering them the higher security of travel by Metro. This would, however, prove to be a drain on government finances that will be owed to reckless spending on freebies with an eye on elections and the creation of a gender votebank. If an estimated 20 lakh women commuters a day are not to be charged, the revenue outgo may be upto Rs 800 crores a year and the Delhi government would have to compensate the Centre. There is no absolute guarantee that free travel will assuage safety concerns in a city notorious for its crimes against women, as terribly highlighted in the Nirbhaya incident of 2012. However, free travel might mean women would feel liberated without having to think of how to pay for the commute to work every day out of the monthly budget.
The trouble with freebies extended to one segment of the urban population is there will be demands from others, like senior citizens and students. There would ideally be nothing like making the entire public transportation system of Metro, trams and buses free, as Luxembourg aims to from March 2020 as this would help bring down urban air pollution too. The problem with the Delhi experiment is that it's so clearly politics-driven at the cost of the exchequer. All must be aware of what the pollution levels are in the NCR, but offering free rides only to women may not make any noticeable difference to the number of cars on the road. The bus system of the capital is so run down it would take several hundred crores to replenish. It is, however, an experiment worth watching since the idea may spread freely in a country obsessed with freebies.