Punjab: Women’s mobility up with free ride in government buses - Hindustan Times
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Punjab: Women’s mobility up with free ride in government buses

ByJaspreet Singh, Patiala
Dec 30, 2022 01:07 AM IST

As per the official data, in April 2021 as many as 61.18 lakh had used buses for daily commute. The number increased almost two fold (1.12 crore) by November 2022. Before this, the Punjab government had not been keeping a record of women travellers in buses.

The number of women travellers in government-run buses in Punjab has seen a steady rise since April 2021, when the previous dispensation brought in a scheme to make bus travel free for women commuting within the state.

The number of women travellers in government-run buses in Punjab has seen a steady rise since April 2021, when the previous dispensation brought in a scheme to make bus travel free for women commuting within the state. (HT File)
The number of women travellers in government-run buses in Punjab has seen a steady rise since April 2021, when the previous dispensation brought in a scheme to make bus travel free for women commuting within the state. (HT File)

As per the official data, in April 2021 as many as 61.18 lakh had used buses for daily commute. The number increased almost two fold (1.12 crore) by November 2022. Before this, the Punjab government had not been keeping a record of women travellers in buses.

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Shivani, 22, who hails from Rupnagar said, “The scheme is a boon for women from financially disadvantaged sections.”

Davinder Singh, 18, a teenager from Samana, said, “It has especially helped young girls from villages, who have to travel long distance to colleges in Patiala.”

A conductor, on the condition of anonymity, revealed the number of travellers in government buses during weekends has seen a spike since the scheme was launched.

“Earlier, buses used to run empty on Sundays. But now, these are overloaded on weekends too,” he said.

Lakhvir Singh, a station-in charge of the Khatra Bus service, meanwhile revealed that the free bus travel has led to losses for private bus services.

“The per day revenue of our buses has almost halved since the scheme was launched,” he said.

As per official data, the increase in the number of women travellers who avail free bus service has resulted in mounting dues and expenditure. Sources said the income from bus passes has also decreased drastically. (HT File)
As per official data, the increase in the number of women travellers who avail free bus service has resulted in mounting dues and expenditure. Sources said the income from bus passes has also decreased drastically. (HT File)

Govt yet to reimburse bus service providers

According to official sources, the government is yet to pay over 187 crore to the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) for providing free travel facility to women. As per official data, the increase in the number of women travellers who avail free bus service has resulted in mounting dues and expenditure. Sources said the income from bus passes has also decreased drastically.

A budget of 170 crore was allocated for the scheme, when it was extended to include government college students, by the Captain Amarinder-led Congress government in 2021. However, now there is no specific allocation of budget to continue this scheme. The funds are released by the department of social security, women and child development on the claims raised by the department of transport and PRTC. According to official data of Punbus and Punjab Roadways, from the department of transport, the claim of over 387.04 crore has already been raised for free travel of women from April 2021 to November 2022. Similarly, the PRTC has raised claims to the tune of over 476.30 crore from April 2021 to November 2022. The department of social security, women and child development, meanwhile, refused to share data pertaining to the funds released since the launch of this scheme on the pretext of “competence of department authorities.” The authorities said that the “minister is the right authority to answer the questions” that were asked to the director and other officers. Vipul Ujwal, managing director of the PRTC, said, “We are working to refine the process of capturing Aadhaar details with the use of technology so the data of the number of women who travel can be recorded without any error.” About the dues, he said, “The dues will ultimately be paid by the department.” He added, “Women are travelling more and the ease of travel is supposed to give them a sense of empowerment. It will allow them to explore economic and other opportunities.”

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