City authorities say positive discrimination will make journeys safer and help low-income families
As a politics student, Sonakshi Dogra has given the bold new plan by the Delhi government to let all women ride free on the metro and buses a thorough going-over. Its ridiculous. Why favour women this way? What about male students and working men? Women cant ask for gender equality and then support inequality on public transport, she said firmly.
Dogra was about to enter Ashram metro station with three male friends, also students at the same university. They spend about 4,000 rupees (45) each a month on transport.
Her friend Gaurav Verma said: How will it be fair if Sonakshi saves that money and I dont? We have been asking the Delhi government for student passes on the metro and had no luck, but they go and do this? Its a publicity stunt because Delhi voters go to the polls in February.
The plan has aroused strong emotions. The stated reason for it, provided by the Aam Aadmi party (the Common Mans party), which runs the Delhi government, is to make women in the city feel safer.
Jasmine Shah, vice-chair of the Dialogue and Development Commission of the Delhi government, said: Public transport, particularly the metro, is the safest form of transport for women. Many women who cant afford the metro fares have to walk long distances to work or a long way to a bus stop. Or they use auto-rickshaws or informally run local van services that are not safe.
Shah is the first to concede that free public transport is not a silver bullet. All the other factors policing, street lighting, changes in male mentality are vital. Although its true that the presence of more women on public transport will make women feel more secure, its also true, he concedes, that once women get out of a metro station, they are in the same unsafe streets and public spaces. However, he says, this is one thing that is in our hands to do, so we are doing it.