Seven months after promising it in the state budget, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday cleared a proposal to ply women-only buses in five major cities including Mumbai, especially to cater to working women.
Also, the government has specified that these buses should be driven by women drivers and haven women conductors. Moreover, the buses will be fully reserved for women only during the morning and evening peak hours, that is, from 7 am to 11 am and from 5 pm to 9 pm.
For now, however, the five municipal corporations — Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli and Nagpur — will get 150 buses, named ‘Tejaswini’, with the state government sanctioning only Rs50 crore in the first phase. An official from the state urban development department said, “Local municipal corporations will decide on which routes these buses should ply on and the frequency as they know the demand patterns.” He added, “The services will be run by the municipal corporation or the civic arm that operates public transport in the city.”
The official also said that there was a delay in getting a cabinet approval for the budget announcement as the departments needed more time in deciding the initial outlay for the project according to its feasibility.
In Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking will run the buses. Civic bodies will have to ensure that all seats in the buses are reserved exclusively for women during the peak hours.
Overall, the state government has decided to roll out 300 such buses across the five municipal corporations under the same with a total budget of Rs 90 crore. Officials expect the first 150 ‘Tejaswini’ buses to hit the road in the next three months.
Procuring the buses will also be the civic body’s responsibility with the state only releasing funds for it. All the buses purchased under the scheme will, however, have to be eco-friendly buses such as the hybrid ones that reduce consumption of fuel and emission of carbon dioxide. The buses will also be equipped with surveillance cameras, a public address system and a television display.
“Prices for the tickets will be according to the rates charged for regular public bus transport services in the corporation’s jurisdiction. Besides the bus routes and the frequency, the civic body will also have the rights to decide the seating arrangement, whether to provide air conditioning in the buses or not,” the state government official said.