Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced free metro and bus rides for women commuters, in a bid to make public transport safer for them. Coming barely six months before the elections, the proposal has shocked many including citizens and politicians.
Kejriwal first hinted at such a plan on Saturday and ever since then, social media has been rife with debate over the issue. In fact, the announcement evoked an array of reactions. However, the best ones came from Bollywood director Pritish Nandy and the Congress-spokesperson-turned politician Priyanka Chaturvedi.
Reacting to the announcement, Nandy wrote "Women in Delhi will get a free ride on buses and the metro. What a wonderful idea!," he wrote. "Will Mumbai emulate this? All the trouble we are going through for the construction of the metro will then be worth it," the Mumbai-resident wrote.
Women in Delhi will get a free ride on buses and the metro. What a wonderful idea @ArvindKejriwal ! Will Mumbai emulate this? All the trouble we are going through for the construction of the metro will then be worth it. — Pritish Nandy (@PritishNandy) June 3, 2019
However, one person did not take to the move lightly. Priyanka Chaturvedi, who is a vocal champion for women's empowerment on Twitter, took to Twitter to slam the AAP government. "With all due respect, women in Delhi didn’t ask for a free pass to ride when they voted for Kejriwal ji, they had voted for the safe environment promised to them," Chaturvedi wrote on the micro-blogging site.
With all due respect, women in Delhi didn’t ask for a free pass to ride when they voted for Kejriwal ji, they had voted for the safe environment promised to them. https://t.co/5AtSuFKFzt — Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) June 3, 2019
It did not end there. After Chaturvedi's response prompted Nandy to ask, "Agree But why not recognise a good step? Women’s safety is a much larger issue and it needs the support of the law enforcement agencies.", he wrote. "And that, as far as I know, is not with Arvind Kejriwal."
Agree. But why not recognise a good step? Women’s safety is a much larger issue and it needs the support of the law enforcement agencies. And that, as far as I know, is not with @ArvindKejriwal — Pritish Nandy (@PritishNandy) June 3, 2019
Not one to back down, Chaturvedi instantly offered a counter, listing all the various actions that the government could have taken to improve women's safety.
Hate to remind this, but Nirbhaya was gang raped in a bus in Delhi. At that time the country didn’t protest over free rides for the women but for making the capital safe for its women to be able to take a bus or metro at any time of the day. Get your priorities right!— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) June 3, 2019
Nandy and Chaturvedi are not the only two at loggerheads about their opinion on the new announcement, which many are calling a poll sop.
Exactly. Mr Kejriwal you did not see that the Country just rejected the free 72K coming to them. Gone are the days when people could be influenced by free rides. Provide security to women, not free passes. 🙏🇮🇳 #ArvindKejriwal — प्रांजल अग्रवाल (@pranjal2018) June 3, 2019
Free #DelhiMetroDTC Cluster buses shows bankruptcy of thought & planning in AAP Govt. There are so many other important jobs to be done. Whole of Delhi is full of dirt nothing is being done even before rains to clear drains and sewer and see they are thinking of free rides. — A K KAUSHAL (@ashokaushal) June 3, 2019
Delhi metro is part funded by Central govt and apart from Delhi govt UP and haryana govt have a stake in overall metro. Without central govt's consultation Delhi govt cannot take arbitrary decision to make metro travel free for women. It will cost around 3500 crore/year. https://t.co/YKq7gAVSc8 — अंकित जैन (@indiantweeter) June 3, 2019
So who would pay? Or this scheme is extended by DTS and Delhi Metro.. — श्या'am (@spu08) June 3, 2019
Many, as expected, brought up the gender point, claiming it was unfair to divide commuters on the basis of gender.
If you feel everyone are equal, so why are you divide humanity in gender. Why every decision is based on gender/caste @ArvindKejriwal #DelhiMetro pic.twitter.com/6zHV9x5zw7 — Manoj kumar (@maankumararena) June 3, 2019
Delhi CM AK announces free ride for women in buses and metros. I find it weird coz there are many women who can afford tickets but many men who can't. Keep it in mind. #DelhiMetro@ArvindKejriwal @dhruv_rathee — Rameez Ali Author. رمیز علی (@RameezRazaAnsa1) June 3, 2019
Not just men, many women too were left unimpressed and irked at the government not considering them capable of paying their own metro or bus fair.
What for?Are we Delhi Women not considered capable enough to pay for tickets? Is this empowerment in your understanding??!Delhi Metro, bus rides likely to be free of cost for women - India News https://t.co/cdAX2YVXlu— Pragya Rathore (@pragsrats) June 2, 2019
Kejriwal wants to make buses & metro free for women in Delhi. WHY?Aren’t women capable of paying for the tickets? This, in my opinion is a slap on the faces of self respecting women.Women don’t care about free bus or metro rides, but they do care about safe bus and metro rides pic.twitter.com/S90zL7FnTs— Dr.Rupa Murthy (@ProudBhagavathi) June 3, 2019
However, it is important to be noted that many of the women outraging against the move on social media may themselves come from financially secure backgrounds and thus might not be able to appreciate the benefit of free public transport.
Meanwhile, some were simply confused about how safety and free rides were co-related.
Good!! It will increase women participation in jobs and economic activities but I didn't able to understand it's relation with #womensafety #DelhiMetro pic.twitter.com/n3eIBCcaQp — Alok Singh (@ISinghAlok) June 3, 2019
Though Kejriwal said in Monday's press conference that only women who were in financial need should avail of the free pass, many such as TV Mohandas Pai said that subsidies of this sort should only be extended to the economically stressed.
Free rides for women in public transport: Delhi CM Kejriwal announces plan - https://t.co/Hgo89LXYMdWhen you fail in devp, give freebies, no way to run govt. poor deserve subsidies not all. @ArvindKejriwal https://t.co/EwAQWVs3ZD— Mohandas Pai (@TVMohandasPai) June 3, 2019
But the announcement did get some thumbs up on Twitter too.
Pic says everything.@ArvindKejriwal provides free rides for women, BJP attacks kejriwal.This is what @BJP4India is doing for last 4 years.Neither they do something constructive for Delhi nor they cooperate @AAPDelhi pic.twitter.com/687Muo30wM— SirishaRao (@SirishaRao17) June 3, 2019
What a great move @ArvindKejriwal. Proud of the exemplary work done by the @AamAadmiParty. You people are inspiring change in India. Make delhi great again! #AAPDelhi Metro, bus rides to be for women in Delhi, CM Arvind Kejriwal announces - India News https://t.co/GuYS6F4dMR— Arbab Ali (@ArbabAl25305813) June 3, 2019
In an earlier announcement, a Delhi government official said transport minister Kailash Gahlot had already initiated action, holding meetings to discuss various aspects of fare waiver to women in all public transport buses — run by DTC and DIMTS — and Delhi metro.
However, officials had said that while allowing free travel in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and cluster buses run by the Delhi Integrated Multi Modal System (DIMTS) may not be difficult, it will be "challenging" to do so in Metro trains. The Delhi government and the Centre are 50:50 equity partners in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
The move is expected to come into effect within three-four months.