[Answered]Delhi government recently flouted a gender based public transport fare subsidy programme. Critically analyse the subsidy program and its issues.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Write a brief about scheme.
Body. Analyse the positive and negatives of the scheme.
Conclusion.  Way forward and measures.

Women in India travel far less than men. About 60% of women workers in India choose to work from home or at a place which is less than a km from home, according to the 2011 Census. A World Bank study in Mumbai report finds that the bus pass are expensive and pointed out that cheap bus travel would enable them to better access. Free rides to women will encourage them to travel through public transport and will empower women truly.

Benefits-

  • Increase usage of public transport- Free rides will, undoubtedly, increase the use of public transport by women as metro rides have become rather expensive. It will encourage them to take metro route.
  • Economic empowerment of women- This will benefit women who might consider taking up jobs for which they are better suited but are further away from home.  Besides further enhancing safety, this directly impacts the economic empowerment of women by significantly improving access to education and job opportunities. Women can engage in a range of activities that promote their well being.
  • Increase participation at workplace- It will decrease gender gap at workplace. In Delhi, women account for only 11 per cent of the workforce — perhaps the least among Indian cities. India cannot aspire to be global superpower by ignoring the constraints faced by 50 per cent of its population.
  • Enhanced safety of women at public places- Experts across the globe vouch that public transport is the safest mode of transport — there’s safety in numbers. In Delhi, a large fraction of women from poor and lower middle classes, are constrained to walk long distances or use unsafe modes of transport than buying a bus ticket. The metro is not even an option for most of them. This scheme will enable them a safe and free transport medium.
  • Women rights- Article 13 in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises freedom of movement as a basic human right. India ranks a lowly 95 out of 129 countries in the recently released SDG Gender Index. A survey by Thomson Reuters Foundation rankedDelhi as the most unsafe megacity in the world for women. Many factors contribute to this- like ineffective policing, poor conviction rates, dark spots, unsafe modes of transport, social norms towards women, among others. By providing unrestricted access to public transport, the government’s decision also provides women an opportunity to reclaim public spaces.
  • Environment friendly- Better public transport service is key to getting people out of cars, reducing air pollution,and making cities more liveable.  Increased usage of public transport would reduce stress on environment and will help highly to reduce air pollution in the capital. It will encourage greener transport and will help in cleaning up the air.

Challenges and issues-

  • Complete Safety- Public transport system may get choked or that last-mile connectivity and pedestrian safety also matter. Merely providing free rides would not ensure complete safety. Focus should also be on increasing women reserved coaches and seats.
  • Funding and financial viability- Subsidies put stress on public resources. It will require a lot of funds and may put metro in financial stress. Also to mobilise resources, government need to tax others, this will increase fare of metro and can discourage people to travel through metro. This will put stress on metro earnings.
  • Crowding- Additional and free riders, who would also spend much more time on stations, would be tremendous stress on the infrastructure of the metro. Crowding at some metro stations, stress on facilities ranging from air conditioning to security and to general wear and tear will increase. Free rides would put maximum pressure in the peak time zones – a time at which the system is least capable to endure additional load.
  • Demands from others- Other section of society, differently abled, senior citizens may also demand free rides that can put further stress on metro authorities and government officials.

Wage discrimination, gender segregation in employment, and household labour divisions contribute to gender inequality in transportation. Compromises on education and jobs for travel purposes is one of the reasons for women earning less than men, leaving the workforce, and consequently being more cash-poor than men. A subsidy like this is most likely to benefit women who might consider taking up jobs for which they are better suited but are further away from home.

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