From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not Much
Mains level : Women safety measures
- Under a new proposal announced by the Delhi government, women will have the option to not pay for rides.
- The move, which is at the stage of feedback and planning, has drawn various reactions.
Logic behind the move
- The most common reason for any city incentivizing the use of public transport has been to tackle congestion on the roads.
- The reasons given by the Delhi government are different.
- One, to make it easier for women to move from informal and more unsafe modes of transport such as shared autos and cabs to more formal and safer modes such as the Metro.
- Two, the government hopes that with women being able to travel for free, more of them, especially from the economically disadvantaged groups, would start working.
What’s so special with the move?
- Globally, conversations around free public transport have revolved around decongestion and affordability, rather than safety.
- One reason is that many of these experiments have been carried out in highly advanced Scandinavian countries with mostly safe public spaces and better reporting rates of crime against women.
- The proposal to make public transport free for women has no well known precedent anywhere in the world, and could be the first of its kind.
- Studies on fully free public transport systems have underlined both positives and challenges.
- In 1991, the Netherlands introduced a seasonal free-fare travel card for higher education students, which led to the share of trips made by students rising from 11% to 21%.
- Fifty-two per cent of cyclists, and 34% of car users moved.
- However, small European cities can hardly be an indicator for Delhi.
- The population of all of the Netherlands is around 1.7 crore, much less than Delhi’s estimated 2 crore.
- Average income levels are not comparable, and the public transportation system in Delhi is weaker than in most European countries.
Challenges of implementation
- Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) is looking at special passes for women.
- But the Metro has automated fare collection (AFC) gates that require tokens or Metro cards — the Metro will have to either isolate entry or exit points for women.
- Along with safety on public transport, last mile connectivity is a big issue.
- For women, walking to and from the nearest bus stop or Metro station, especially during the early mornings and late evenings, remains unsafe in many places in the city.
- The challenge for the Delhi government is to find the funds for the project.
- According to the Delhi government, the cost of subsidizing women’s travel will be around Rs 1,200 crore annually.
- However, studies show that operational costs frequently rise in the long run, and schemes become increasingly less viable.
- The West has done it to battle road congestion and pollution.
- We haven’t really found a similar project in developing countries. But perhaps this will make us the pioneers.