Opinion: Kejriwal’s Policy Of Free Rides For Women Is A Bold Step Towards Equality

Congestion in long-distance bus routes will decrease, and more people will start commuting by the metro, which in the long run would also lead to a reduction in air pollution.

The Punjab government has recently announced free education for girls from KG to PhD. At the same time, the Delhi Government has decided to use its taxpayer’s money to provide women with a free ride in Delhi Metro and bus services. The outcome of the Punjab policy is not difficult to predict. While the girls and their families will benefit economically, the future Punjab governments will face the challenge of creating jobs to keep these women from leaving the state in search of employment.

The issue I have with this policy is that it’s not in line with Nehruvian Socialism. In a socialist society, education has to be provided free of cost, and educational institutions have to be administered by the public sector. If the Punjab government plans to provide free education to girls in private institutions, this will destroy public education ( to serve the interests of the private education lobby ) and make learning even more expensive. The poor (boys) will only have access to the poor quality of education. That’s not a good scenario for a society that’s already struggling with a drug epidemic.

Delhi Model

Delhi’s policy of free bus and metro rides for women is a fascinating one. It’s no surprise that it has come under heavy criticism from the right wing parties, lobbies and their media platforms. Unable to digest such a bold step, they have tried to undermine the decision by highlighting the issue of women’s safety. Even respected anchors like Faye Desouza transformed into the “shrill” Arnab Goswami while criticising the decision.

But the fact is that this subsidy has nothing to do with security. The issue of security falls within the ambit of the central government and is thus out of Delhi Government’s control. The policy is a social welfare experiment (since it has never been tested in India) to empower women.

It’s a fact that women get paid less than their male counterparts. Whether the woman is a student, a single working mother, this subsidy, which would help save 10% of their income will go a long way in getting these women out of poverty. Another issue is that most public infrastructure is designed and built, keeping the requirements of men in mind. That’s why you don’t see enough toilets for women. Even the pathways, the height of buses, seats, luggage shelves, platforms and overhead support handles inside the trains and buses are designed for men. So this policy will encourage designers to rethink the design of public infrastructure and safety measures to be suited for both men and women.

Burden On Exchequer

What about the financial burden? Is it a good idea for the government to spend money on women? In my home State Goa, the government gives homemakers a monthly dole of ₹2000. This is an ill-planned scheme since there is no way to keep track of whether the money is used for essential items or luxury. To me, this scheme has failed because inflation (caused due to this free liquidity in the market) is stealing away this money. Instead, if the government had given a special payment card with a limit of ₹2000 per month which could only be used on groceries, fair price shops, medical stores etc, that would have not only prevented inflation due to liquidity but also helped the government keep a track on how the money is being spent. Moreover, the data could have helped fine-tune the scheme.

Is Such A Subsidy Benefiting?

Goa also has a 30-year-old scheme where all students and senior citizens get a 50% discount on the bus ticket fare. The programme has helped lakhs of students travel to distant colleges in Goa. Although no scientific study has been done on the impact of this policy, one can conclude that the policy is successful since Goa has one of the most highly educated populations in India. So Delhi Government’s decision to spend money is not out of the ordinary.

The Impact?

But are there better alternatives to this policy? For example, should the Delhi government have given 100% travel subsidy to students instead of women? Should (as many are claiming on social media) the scheme have been given to poor daily labourers? Maybe. But I prefer Kejriwal’s experiment over the replication of an existing policy.

We need to know what will happen if women get to travel for free. Let’s do a simple thought experiment. What could be the outcome of this decision?

1. There will be a significant increase in the number of women travelling by metro.

2. This will benefit women and their families socially and economically.

The Delhi metro is running at less than 30% of its capacity. This infrastructure is a waste of money if it’s not being used to its full capacity.

Do we expect the economy to change instantly? Maybe not. But there will be a cascading effect. For example, in a year or two, rental apartments and businesses around metro stations which are dependent on women will be on high demand. Congestion in long-distance bus routes will decrease, and more people will start commuting by the metro, which in the long run would also lead to a reduction in air pollution.

The point to ponder here is not how will women benefit, but what those benefits are. If it fails, so be it. If it succeeds and let’s say more women enter the workforce, then the impact will be felt across society, both socially and economically.

Brainwashed Indians

We Indians are brainwashed to accept any capitalistic decision, such as a hike in train fares due to the rise in crude oil prices. The people have absolutely no idea about how much all the companies involved in the production and distribution of the fuel are making in the process. We accept that the crude prices have gone up as if it’s a natural phenomenon. You’ll never hear any news anchor screaming over the fact that oil prices are arbitrarily decided by OPEC and diesel prices are decided by Indian oil companies to maximise their profits. But when it comes to a ‘government’ offering to take a little burden off women, the right-wing mainstream and the social media turn into a lynch mob.

Kejriwal Sucker Punched Privatisation

Another interesting observation is that in January 2019, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had proposed the privatisation of two of its lines. With this policy, Kejriwal has most likely derailed DMRCs privatisation bid since this subsidy will bring a higher amount of scrutiny in the operations of the corporation. This probably is another reason why the right-wing party is fuming over the policy. What if women in other BJP run states like Maharashtra start demanding this subsidy? If the women of Mumbai began making such a demand, will Reliance (Mumbai Metro) fight back or succumb to the public pressure? This could pretty much explain the verbal assault launched by the news media channels on this subsidy scheme.

Uber and Ola are also victims of this scheme. While men are comfortable sitting with strangers in a shared taxi, women usually travel alone. Therefore, these taxi services will likely lose a not-so-small yet significant chunk of business.


The bottom line is that the Delhi Government’s decision is in line with Nehruvian socialism.  Although it’s radically different from Punjab’s policy of free education, both will help in solving the problems faced by women which are unique to the State. The larger issue is that a majority of women are still treated like property/second class citizens in India, and there is no single solution to this problem. Let us allow the Delhi government to try something different for women empowerment, and perhaps it can actually make a difference.

Created by Goan Indian

Do you support Delhi Govt's free metro travel for women scheme?
Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below