eeping assembly elections in mind, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announced free rides in the Metro and in buses for women who wish to avail of the facility. This decision is likely to cost the government approximately Rs 1,600 crore this year. The term of the Delhi government ends in February. The AAP, which swept the assembly elections in 2015, fared very poorly in the national capital in the Lok Sabha elections. Of the seven seats in Delhi, the party failed to secure a single seat and came third in five of the constituencies. The government aims to launch the free-ride initiative in the next two or three months and has invited suggestions from the public about the implementation of the scheme.
“The safety of women is the most important thing for the AAP government.” Keeping this in mind, the government has decided that all Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and cluster buses and the Delhi Metro will be free for women so that the maximum number of women can use public transport. This is said to be the safest for women. They are not able to use these services also because of the increase in Metro fares, believes Kejriwal. The Delhi government is ready to bear the cost of this. The cost for the remaining six months will be Rs 700-800 crore. The government is working on a voluntary model for the scheme, where travellers can opt out of the subsidy. Officials in the Delhi government have been given a week to draft the proposal. Well, the proposal looks meaty, and earlier too Kejriwal government succeeded in giving free water and subsidy on electricity. They have given best of education and medical services to Delhi voters. A new political party with a lot of odds and turbulences has won people’s heart but their opposition has managed to defame them to the core.
Well! Let me return to the main topic. In India, if you want to know what women want, honestly, not a free ride in metro but safety while travelling in the metro! Women, just like any other individual, deserve to have their opinions respected, even if you don’t agree with them. What do women dream of? They dream of exploring their talent and having a great career. They want to make a difference in the world. For all this, they have to leave their cocoons and safe shelters. They want the freedom of living life on their own terms — that is an uncompromising declaration of selfhood. Their biggest worries are related to work and careers and how to balance their personal and professional lives. For women in India (and I guess in a lot of other countries), travelling is fraught with dangers. Whether you are travelling from your home to the grocery store or backpacking across the country; you have to worry about your safety 24×7. More importantly, employers providing cab services and cab aggregators should also equip their fleets with appropriate telematics devices to ensure the safety of women employees.
Following the Nirbhaya case of 2012 and the public outrage that it provoked, public safety for women has been increasingly deemed a political issue worthy of attention and concern, particularly in India’s cities. The government’s response has been to promote precautionary policies for women that, while maybe well-meaning, tend to reinforce the prevalent social inclination to put the onus of their safety on women themselves, rather than addressing the deep-seated issues that cause them to feel unsafe, to begin with. These include the provision of buses exclusively for women and so-called ‘panic buttons’. Even as the male-dominated nature of India’s public sphere is being recognised, attempts to change it have been limited. Taking constructs of ‘positive and negative liberty’, this paper argues that public policy in Indian cities, with respect to gender, tends to focus on negative liberty; a shift to positive liberty is essential. Cities have been envisioned as spaces of liberation, of collaboration and ideas. For many women, cities are rather spaces of fear, which they access while having to constantly look over their shoulders. This view is not merely anecdotal. The United Nation’s ‘Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces’ programme, which started in 2010, recognised that cities all around the world were becoming unsafe for women. Delhi was one of the first five cities which the UN programmes set its eyes on, because of the grave issues faced by the city’s women. Rape cases in Delhi, for example, were the highest in the country. Delhi continues to be notoriously poor in ensuring women’s safety. In 2015, the highest crime rate in the Sexual Offences category (Incidence of Sexual Offences per 100,000 of Female Population) in the country was in Delhi. A number of policy solutions have been talked about and implemented since, including those that highlight the use of technology, such as ‘panic buttons’, GPS tracking, and CCTVs. As a response to the heightened media attention, the noisy public demand, and pressure from civil society organisations, attempts at forging more gender-sensitive policies and strategies have begun at different levels of government.
In Delhi, you are not even safe if you are with a guy. Just look at the case of Nirbhaya. Look at the recent case where a 51-year-old businessman was stabbed to death by a group of persons after he objected to some of them making lewd gestures at his 22-year-old daughter in west Delhi’s Moti Nagar. The crime happened around 2 am on Sunday while the businessman and his daughter were returning home from a hospital where she had visited for her migraine treatment. In such heinous situations, do you think woman really wants free ride?? In Delhi, there was a rape case where some men flung a woman’s three-month-old baby out of a rickshaw just to satisfy their desires. There was a case in Gurgaon, where some men kidnapped a woman to gang-rape her when she was returning from work in a taxi with her brother. So, now women aren’t even safe when they are with TWO men and not one. In Delhi, there was another case where a girl who while travelling with several men was kidnapped at gunpoint to be gang rapes by a bunch of men. So, now women are not even safe with many men as opposed to one man. A child was raped in Delhi where candles were inserted in her vagina by a neighbour. What a woman of Delhi needs is dignity and security. Hope Kejriwal understands it.
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