Why Making Delhi Metro & Buses Free For Women Has Opened A Veritable Can Of Elitist Worms

The AAP Delhi state government has announced free travel on metro and buses for women who cannot afford it. How exactly will this lead to safer travel for women?

The AAP Delhi state government has announced free travel on metro and buses for women who cannot afford it. How exactly will this lead to safer travel for women?

Everyone is talking about the Delhi government’s move to make metro and bus travel free for women.

No actually, everyone is talking about the metro part.

We, the upper middle-class intellectuals don’t really care about what happens to the buses, as we don’t really take the bus too often.

So, as a woman who has lived in Delhi for all 21 years of her life, I’ll leave my two cents here. I won’t be using any statistics or scientific research. I’ll be talking solely from my own experiences.

Delhi is a safer place right now than it has been for the longest time. Most of the DTC buses have police constables in them as of now, for the safety of the passengers. CCTV cameras will be put on all DTC buses starting from June, and the process will be completed by the month of November. There are several ladies special buses that function in the more crowded routes during office hours. I don’t know how many routes, but I myself have seen and travelled in several ladies special buses.

The government is trying. You cannot make a city like Delhi safe in a single day. It’s a long process.

Now, let’s come to the point. Should metro and bus travel really be free for all women? I do not know. What I do know is that when Atishi said that women were the worst affected section after the metro fare hike, she wasn’t lying or speculating.

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I know this because I started taking the bus a lot after the fare hike. Because if a day’s travel would cost me ₹80 if I took the metro, it costs me only ₹30 when I take the bus.

Now, you’d say that they have already made the DTC buses safe, so what’s the problem in that?

See, there are a lot of feeder buses, private buses, shared autos, and grameen sewa autos that run in various routes across the city. Unlike DTC, these modes of transport are not easy to monitor. I often have to take feeder buses, and I know, from personal experience, how unsafe they are. I cannot even count the number of times I have been molested in a private bus.

Is metro safer? Yes.

Is it always affordable for me? No.

And I am someone who has a job with a decent salary. If I cannot afford to always take the metro, I refuse to believe that I’m the only one.

When you say that “Everyone can afford the metro fare,” you reek of elitism. When you say “Why don’t you make other modes of travel safer?” you reek of elitism, because you want poor women to stick to their poor modes of transport. You don’t want them to to invade your space; yes, your space, that’s what you’ve assumed the metro to be. How many working class women do you see traveling in the metro on a regular basis? I won’t believe you if you answer this question with “a lot”.

While this might not be all we need, this is a welcome move that would help women to travel safely. Like reservation, the number of women who unnecessarily benefit from this move is much much lower than the number of women who actually need it.

Author bio: Ditsa Bhattacharya is a feminist and a poet who moonlights as a journalist in her free time. When she is not buried in a pile of books, she likes educating men about gender issues.

A version of this was first published on the author’s Facebook wall.

Image source: YouTube

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