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Free ride for women in public transport buses launched, CM Kejriwal terms move historic

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: October 29, 2019  | 22:41 IST

New Delhi, Oct 29 (PTI) The AAP government's ambitious free-ride scheme for women in public buses rolled out in the city on Tuesday, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hailing it as a "historic move" which will increase women's role in Delhi's economy besides empowering them. Under the scheme launched on the occasion of 'Bhai Dooj', over 2.20 lakh women commuters were issued pink tickets to avail free ride in DTC buses in the first shift (till 5 PM). The number will go up after compiling data for the whole day, said a government official. The data of women commuters travelling in cluster buses was being compiled, he said. The chief minister said that the Delhi government will also deliberate to provide free-bus ride to senior citizens and students based on the results of the scheme for women. The move comes a few months ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections. Each pink ticket having face value of Rs 10 also carried on the backside an image of Kejriwal and his message wishing progress of female commuters and their families and adding that the country will march forward when the women will progress. According to DTC data, total 6.76 lakh commuters were issued tickets in the first shift, of whom 2.20 lakh or 32.65 per cent were women. The maximum number of pink tickets (71,458) were issued in North region and minimum (42,140) in South region of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). Majority of the women commuters hailed the move. Opposition BJP and Congress termed it an "election stunt" of the ruling AAP ahead of Assembly polls in Delhi scheduled for early next year. The scheme was announced in June by Kejriwal with his government setting aside Rs 140 crore to compensate for free travel to women in around 5,600 buses of DTC and cluster scheme of Delhi Integrated Multi Modal System (DIMTS). Transport minister Kailash Gahlot who took a ride in a DTC bus from ITO to Gole Market interacted with women commuters seeking their feedback on the scheme. The government had announced free ride for women in the public transport, including Metro trains, but the scheme has been started with buses first. The proposal for free ride in Metro trains is stuck as it is to be put up before the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation(DMRC) board, Gahlot told reporters. Bus rides for senior citizen and students might be made free too in the coming days, Kejriwal said sharing his vision behind the scheme on his app. "Every step cannot be completed at once. We will definitely do it. Let us start with women and see the results, and based on the result we will definitely deliberate on making these rides free for senior citizens and students too in the future," he said. "The bus ride for women has become free from this morning. It is a historic step for women empowerment and safety and increasing their contribution in the economy," the Chief Minister said in a tweet. Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari said that Kejriwal government "failed" to boost public transport fleet otherwise it could have benefitted lakhs of people in the city. "The way it is implemented before polls, it's nothing but a stunt. If the number of buses were raised to 12,000, which was not done by the AAP government in five years, lakhs of people including senior citizens and students could also have benefited," Tiwari said. Delhi Congress president Subhash Chopra also said the move was aimed at getting political mileage in the elections. "We welcome the move but what was Kejriwal government doing earlier. Timing of the scheme is aimed at getting votes. I think students should also be provided free ride in public transport buses," he said. The transport minister had earlier said that around 30 percent of the bus riders travelling in DTC and cluster buses everyday are estimated to be women. Accordingly, arrangements have been made for printing around 1.5 crore single journey passes (pink tickets). The daily ridership of DTC and cluster buses is over 45 lakh, said a government official. The scheme is voluntary and those who do not avail the facility may purchase tickets. Most women commuters on Tuesday hailed the Delhi government's move to provide free ride to them in DTC and cluster buses, saying it will encourage them to take public transport, ensure their safety and help them save money at the same time. There was, however, a section of women commuters who questioned the sustainability of the scheme, saying it comes nearly three months ahead of Delhi polls, and wondered whether the next government will continue this programme. PTI VIT UZM AMP NIT BUN SMN

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