7 PM | Is there a case for free rides for women? | 2nd July, 2019

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Context: The plan of Delhi Government to provide free rides to the women in public transports.

More in news:

  • Delhi government plans to make metro and bus travels free for women.
  • Metro man Sreedharan writes to Prime minister against Aam Aadmi Party’s free rides for women bid

Impact of transportation on women:

  • Census data:  Census data from 2011 revealed that 45% of women do not even travel for work, meaning that they work out of their own houses. As a result, India has one of the world’s most lopsided ratios of male versus female commuting, according to data aggregated by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research, a research unit at the University of Cambridge.
  • The gender commuting gap: gender community gap linked to gender wage gap, which really open up after the arrival of children. If women want to work close to home due to household responsibilities, they may be likely to find a job well matched to their skills. This is happening India.  For instance, a 2005 study in Delhi slums found that women spend more time travelling on slower modes of transport to access work since faster mode are more expensive.
  • Education: a study in Delhi found that college girls, compared to boys, chose lower ranked colleges with safe and reliable transport access.

Steps taken by Indian state governments to ease the burden of transportation cost on women:

  • Himachal Pradesh: women passengers can avail a concession of 25 per cent while travelling in the government run Himachal Road Transportation Corporation (HRTC).
  • Andhra Pradesh: The AP State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) has announced 25 per cent concession in bus fares for senior citizens.

Global examples: Cities providefare concessionsto promote use of public transport among its citizens. Some of the examples are:

  • Luxembourg: In an eco-friendly move aimed at reducing traffic congestion, Luxembourg has announced plans to become the world’s first country to make its public transportation free for everyone.
  • Paris: Paris is set to make public transport free for all children under the age of 11. As detailed by Le Parisien, September 2019 will see new concessions rolled out across the Greater Paris region including free metro and bus travel for people under 11, including non-nationals, and free travel for people with disabilities under the age of 20. In addition, high school students between 14 and 18 will receive a 50% concession, as well as a free bike share account on the city’s Vélib scheme.
  • Estonia: From July 1, every county in Estonia can implement free public transport for its residents, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Delhi Government recently decided to provide free rides to women in Delhi buses and Metro. Now the question arises, who will pay for the subsidies aimed at the transportation disadvantaged?

To address the above dilemma and make people to use public transport, reduce air pollution and make cities more liveable. It is possible that revenues from appropriately charging personal motorized travel will be sufficient to make travel by public transport cheap or free for the transportation-disadvantaged, without any additional public subsidy requirement.

There are hurdles in the implementation of this proposal, but in long run it can be a viable solution towards promotion of use of public transport and curbing the rising pollution in Delhi. Altogether, transportation is the fulcrum that allows women to participate in the workforce, which can create a societal shift to transform the entire world economy.

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