The Delhi government has chickened out once again: On Wednesday, it decided to exempt women from the second round of odd-even traffic formula.
By doing so, the city government has shown that it does not have the guts to go whole hog on this important traffic and health issue and is afraid to take potentially unpopular decisions.
Here’s why I think women should not have been exempted from the formula:
It takes the pressure off government to make public transport safe and reliable:I agree that public transport in Delhi and the National Capital Region area is unsafe and unreliable and so women need to use their own vehicles.
As a regular user of the Delhi Metro, I also know how bad the last mile connectivity problem is. The Delhi and NCR governments have been sleeping on the issue and need to fix it immediately.
Not exempting women would have put counter-pressure on these governments to fix the problem and invest majorly in public transport.
Now with the exemption, these three (Delhi, UP and Haryana) governments can relax and buy more time.
Like quota, there is no point having exemptions if there is no long-term solution of a problem.
And safer transport is not just for women; it is for everyone.
We need to reclaim our public spaces: Most women who bat for exemption should realise by relieving the pressure on the government to address safety issues, they are propagating the problem for those who have no option but to inhabit these spaces.
Women’s safety is not only about freedom from gender violence.
“It is important to create the conditions by which women are able to move about safely and without fear of violence or assault. Fear often plays a key role in women’s experience and access to the city. Therefore in order to create greater levels of safety and comfort, both actual violence and the fear of violence need to be addressed,” says Kalpana Viswanath, a researcher who has been working on issues of violence against women and safer cities for women for over 20 years.
The fight against pollution must involve everyone: Men pollute, so do women. If traffic rules are same for everyone, the fight against pollution should also involve everyone. Delhi’s air is so polluted that we don’t have the luxury of a touch-me-not long exemption list.
Cities cannot be exclusive: India’s cities are increasingly becoming exclusive for a certain category of people. If women ask for exemption, tomorrow some other category will ask for the same. How will the government deal with it?
A city can never thrive on such exclusionary tactics.
Symbolic gestures mean nothing: Earlier in the day, a colleague tweeted that the ladies seats on coaches of Delhi Metro will be pink. I retweeted, saying how awful the colour is and we would have been better off with the original silver-grey colour.
A reader responded saying that the government must stop these symbolic gestures and think about women’s safety.
I agree; symbolic gestures like traffic rule exemptions and seat colours have no meaning, minus any long-term solutions to the real problems.
The views expressed by the writer are personal. She tweets as @kumkumdasgupta