Delhi government's proposal to offer free bus and metro rides has stirred a debate on social media over the feasibility of such a scheme. Many have even questioned the timing and intention behind the announcement. Critics have questioned whether the move, aimed primarily at women's safety, would make a difference. For Geeta, a 47-year-old domestic help, the announcement could bring a significant change in her life.
Geeta, who has a monthly income of Rs 3,000, could never afford to use the Delhi Metro for her commute. After Chief Minister Arvind Kerjiwal's decision to make bus and metro rides free for women, she could finally take her first metro ride.
Sheela Devi, a cook who earns Rs 2,500 a month, also said that she only travels in buses. "I have never travelled in a metro before. I travel in buses only. Poor people have to face so many problems and spend so much for buses and autos. If metro becomes free I will take the metro."
Several women like these, who previously could not afford to take the metro, will start using it over ride sharing, autos, private buses, said the Aam Aadmi Party.
Manish Sisodia, Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister, today travelled in one of Delhi's buses to get feedback on the scheme and interacted with the commuters. "We are getting positive reactions (on the scheme). Many are saying metro fares were too high. Now it will all be affordable. Many have never travelled in metro before. But even they will be confident now. They will also feel safe in the metro," he told NDTV.
Most commuters on the bus welcomed the move. "Many think it's better to go by bus since it's cheaper so they don't take the metro. Now even those will travel in metro. Right now I spend Rs 300 everyday on bus and metro travel. Those daily expenses will come down to zero," said Alisha, a 22-year-old.
The scheme, expected to be launched in three months, would cost the Delhi government Rs. 700 crore this year. It is, however, yet to be cleared by the Centre.