Recently, the announcement of a new scheme by CM Arvind Kejriwal at a press conference of providing free rides in metro and buses created a buzz on social media with a plethora of mixed reactions polarising the people at large.
What piqued my interest in this was that people rather than viewing this move as a means of combating gender inequality, which might have the potential in bringing out unprivileged women and encouraging them to work in public sectors without thinking of the transport wages; it attracted a lot of prejudice and sexist remarks about women.
Some went on to say that its ‘special treatment’ for women, similar to separate coaches in Delhi metros and reserved seats in buses. I believe, such remarks portray the conditioned mindsets of some men which comes from the sense of hatred and prejudice against women and girls.
I think what’s important to consider here is how far this initiative could be helpful in reducing molestation and sexual harassment in metros and buses.
According to the Delhi government, this scheme will encourage women to step out of their houses and work. Secondly, they believe this is a step towards equality in the public domain, where men and women can equally share the space without the domination of men.
Smashing patriarchy from its roots and providing equal and a free liberating space for women and girls in our society sounds like one of the targets of this initiative, but it all sounds rhetorical and seemingly impossible, when I see everyday monsters on crowded buses masturbating and trying to touch women; while women silently avoid or try to shift around the leg space area of the so-called reserved seats for women.
In situations such as these, how far does the Delhi government see this initiative beneficial for women and society at large?
Though this is a very welcoming initiative by the Delhi government, women have been underprivileged for a long time and thus they must take advantage of this scheme. I am all for the overcrowding it might lead to if a proportion of women increases in the public domain.
As they say, women feel safer in the company of other women, though I wish I could have said the same about men too. Well, that will take time as the change needs to take place on an ideological level in our society. However, without infrastructure for such schemes, how will the DMRC manage the gradual upsurge in buses; it all sounds hollow and equal to believing in a Utopian existence.
But what I find more alarming is that Kejriwal has admitted that the daily ridership will increase by one lakh. So, how will the government ensure the safety of the increasing number of women using public transport?