AAP suffered a humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha polls after it failed to forge an alliance with the Congress. BJP won all seven parliamentary seats in the national capital.
Unable to digest the debacle, and hence, going to extreme lengths to ensure voters' support in the upcoming Assembly elections in 2020, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal ended up announcing free travel for women in Delhi Metro and DTC buses.
"On all DTC buses, cluster buses and metro trains women will be allowed to travel free of cost," announced the Delhi chief minister yesterday.
There seem to be many problems with the Delhi government's decision. Kejriwal claimed that the decision was taken to encourage women to use public transport for their safety. However, it is difficult to justify "FREE=SAFE" equation here.
The Delhi government and the Centre are 50:50 equity partners in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The Delhi government will bear the entire cost alone without the Centre's support. If rolled out by September 2019, this scheme will cost the Delhi government Rs 700- Rs 800 crore for the rest of the financial year.
For women to feel safe - more buses should be added to the existing fleet and their frequency should be increased during late hours. And a few women special metro train rides can be introduced during peak hours. Furthermore, more CCTV cameras should be put in place across the city and the number of metro feeders should be increased for better connectivity from metro stations.
Another problem with this decision is the losses which the DMRC and DTC will face following the implementation of this scheme. According to the Delhi Economic survey 2018-2019, DTC is incurring working losses which have jumped to Rs 1750.37 crore. The working loss of DTC was Rs 942.89 crore in 2013-14. Subsequently, it rose to Rs 1019.36 crore (2014-15), Rs 1250.14 crore (2015-16), Rs 1381.79 (2016-17), Rs 1730.02 crore(2017-18) and currently stands Rs 1750.37 crore in budgetary estimates of 2018-19, the survey said in February 2019.
Kejriwal has time and again attacked the Central government for increasing metro fares, but to expand and provide world-class services to commuters, the entity needs to generate revenue to meet the input cost and operate as a profit-making organisation.
Women in Delhi want safer environment, effective public transport system and not freebies. There is nothing empowering about the decision. In fact, it enforces gender inequality.
The money for this subsidy will come from the taxpayers' pocket. Experts and poll pundits see this decision as an election gimmick which is unlikely to help the Aam Aadmi Party get more votes in the upcoming Assembly election.
Instead, the Delhi government should have considered reducing or waiving off fares for senior citizens, differently abled people and those who cannot afford the bus and metro rides - irrespective of gender.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)