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Kejriwal’s proposal on free ridership draws mixed response from women activists

New Delhi | Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s proposal to make metro and bus travel free for women in the national capital has drawn a mixed response from women activists with some calling it a populist move while others welcoming the decision.

Kejriwal said his government’s decision, which he expects to implement in 2-3 months, would encourage women to use public transport systems and ensure their safety.

Some women activists reacted strongly to it, saying there is no connection between women safety and free rides in buses and metros.

Activist Annie Raja said women are not “fools” to believe it has “anything to do with women safety”.

“The election loss must have given him sleepless nights and he came up with it ahead of polls. If he is so sincere then what is his opinion on the 181 helpline and its privatisation, who sat on ‘dharna’ to protest alleged breach of women data,” Raja said.

“If he is so interested then he should see that all systems are in place like these (181 helpline),” she said.

Another activist Chhavi Methi asked how can free ridership help women safety.

“It is a baseless step. He should increase coverage of women security personnel across the city if the government is so concerned,” Chhavi said.

Vani Subramanian, a women’s rights activist, said there is no connection between women safety and free ridership.

It is just a populist step and they are trying to woo women ahead of polls, she said.

However, some activists have welcomed the step.

“It is a very welcome step. It’s a progressive step and will help women especially from poor sections economically and because of more women on buses and metro by default it becomes safer,” Shabnam Hashmi, a women rights activist, said.

Kanwalpreet Kaur, a student activist with All India Students Association at Delhi University, said the decision is welcome.

“We are also hopeful that the government will listen to the long-standing demand of Metro concessional passes for students in Delhi. Students have been worst hit by the two-fold hike in metro fares that were announced last year,” she said.

“The increase has overburden the students who have been forced to switch to other modes of transportation. In that case, it is very important that the government must also listen to the long-standing demand of the student community. We are planning to write it to the Delhi chief minister for the same,” she added.

Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal said it is a “brilliant” step.

“This is absolutely brilliant! Women and girls across Delhi shall benefit from this excellent initiative by Arvind Kejriwal. Simply Superb. Hope other states shall also emulate this pro women measure of Delhi Government,” she said in a tweet.

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