I don’t need a free ride.

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With the city buzzing on the proposal of Delhi government to make the bus and metro rides free for women, different opinions from every corner are popping up. While some are going gaga over the decision, I personally am not quite happy with it. In the era where we talk about equal rights and opportunities for women, this decision feels a bit biased. When it comes to the matter of a women’s safety, how can a free ride ensure that? Shouldn’t the government think about the entire journey and not just the metro or bus ride? Has it ever been taken into account how safe or unsafe sidewalks are and what the journey to the metro station is like in the first place? So if the idea is to make it safer for women, that experience has to be continuous. Safety can’t begin and end at the metro station. Even if we say that it’s the first move towards safety, how can a free ride in the metro ensure that I reach home safely?

In this phase where the elections are a few months down the line, this decision for me is just a political move and nothing else. I do not say that this decision is all bad; but selling it in the name of “women safety” is unfair. If we really want to make a move towards a positive change, why not post a few women guards in the metro, or make the law that strict that one has to think twice before planning or committing a crime. One way the government is taking about empowering women by educating them, giving them jobs and equal rights while on the other hand they are sort of impairing us by giving free services. We really do not need a free ride, all we need is a safe ride. And if the government has the budget to compensate free rides for women, why not give a free ride for people with limited means, for senior citizens or for kids? The reason why the buses are still stuffed with people over its capacity is because the metro ride exceeds the budget at time. Why not think this way?

And as for making women safer, begin by ditching the mentality that lumps all of us into one helpless compartment. Better policies, strict laws and active guarding is all that we need.

Some City Planning that can help in women safety:-

  1. Brightly Lit roads
  2. Vigilant patrolling by the police
  3. Stick rules and verification of the driver before issuing public transport license i.e. auto drivers, bus drivers etc.
  4. Associating each public transport vehicle with technology-enabled shared mobility companies so that the tracking of the vehicle becomes easy

It is important to understand that men and women use spaces in our cities differently – be it public, private or transitional. Therefore, we need to move away from the notion that what works for men will also work for women. To build a safe city, it is important that city planning and enforcement go hand-in-hand. Simple measures like shifting a bus stop by few meters to a safer location, installing street lamps in an isolated stretch or constructing safe, clean and functional public toilets at regular intervals can greatly improve women’s safety and accessibility in Indian cities and not just these free ride.

Tell me what do you think about this proposal of free rides for women in the comments below.

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