Over 2 lakh women took free ride in DTC buses on Day 1 of Delhi govt schemeUpdated: Oct 29, 2019, 23:34 IST
After changing two buses from her house in east Delhi’s Jagat Puri, 70-year old Darshana Devi had already travelled for over two hours when HT boarded bus number 990 from Shivaji Terminal on Tuesday afternoon. Taking out the new single journey pink ticket from her purse, she asked if we took the same from the conductor to avail the free bus ride scheme which was launched by the Delhi government on Tuesday.
“You should get this ticket. It will help old and unemployed women like me the most as I need to change at least three buses to reach my son’s home in Rajouri Garden. The bus rides alone cost me about Rs 100 to-and-from his house, which I don’t have to pay anymore,” she said.
More than 2.20 lakh women, of the total 6.76 lakh passengers who took DTC buses in Delhi till 4pm on Tuesday, availed the free ride scheme on the first day of the Delhi government’s initiative. Since Tuesday was Bhai Dooj, several women HT spoke to said they thought that the scheme just valid for one day only.
Those who already knew about the details said they saved money. “I came to see my brother who stays in Central Delhi. I was about to take an auto to my house in Mongolpuri for Rs 200, when my brother told me about the scheme. He dropped me at this bus stop,” said Rachna Tyagi, 45, a home-maker.
A ride in a non-AC bus can cost between Rs 5 and Rs 15. The AC buses charge fares between Rs 10 and Rs 25. For women, however, travelling in both AC and non-AC buses is now free.
A few others like 20 year-old student, Priyanka Kumari, thought that the scheme would last until the Assembly election in Delhi are over. “Isn’t it only for three or four months, till the next state elections?” she asked.
Since DTC buses going to NCR cities such as Noida, Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Faridabad are also free for women, Zehra Hussain, 27, a music teacher, said the scheme will encourage them, especially women from the economically weaker section, to move independently.
“It will also increase the presence of women in public transit which will automatically ensure women’s safety and also help change the perspective of the society towards women,” she said.
Her friend Lalita Kindo, however, wondered about the real impact of making only buses free as she said last mile connectivity is not just a problem but also expensive. “Free rides can help unemployed women, but even then, bus fares were anyway the cheapest of all the transport modes we use. I end up paying Rs 60 to an auto alone during evenings to reach my home in Ram Park from the bus stop in Khajuri,” Kindo said.
An intense discussion on the government’s scheme was already underway among the passengers of bus number 85 when HT boarded a second bus at around 4:30pm.
Devender Jain, a middle-aged man working with an advertising agency asked, “What about fixing the basics first? The waiting time for a bus ranges from 15 minutes to even one hour at some bus stops. Why not spend the money in increasing the bus frequency and improving their routes?”
Poonam Verma, 54, a beautician working in Rohini, nodded in agreement with Jain. “I am a regular bus rider. Both DTC and cluster buses in Delhi are unreliable. Sometimes buses of the same route come back-to-back and sometimes even one bus takes 20 minutes to arrive. If someone is new to the bus system, they mostly travel by asking people around at bus stops about the routes because there is no public information system,” she said.
When it comes to deploying bus marshals in all the 5,558 buses, both female and male passengers HT spoke to in the four bus rides, hailed the move. They said they feel safer with the presence of marshals.
The government, however, seemed to have gone on an overdrive while deploying around 13,000 marshals in buses. On Tuesday, several buses had two to three marshals deputed in a single bus. “Today being the first day, more marshals turned up for duty and compared to that the number of buses pressed to service fell short,” said a marshal at Shivaji Stadium depot on condition of anonymity.