Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal surprised everyone with his move on public transport. Making transport free for women in the Capital would not particularly sound absurd given the safety issues that Delhi is well-versed with. However, drawing a connection between free travel and safety might seem a bit odd to many. What does a free ticket of buses or metro have to do with women’s safety? As criticism arose following Kejriwal’s announcement, experts posed a variety of arguments. Concerns revolved around ‘affordability’, ‘sustainability’, ‘poll plank’, et al, while opposition strictly pronounced it as a desperate bid to garner votes given AAP’s thrashing in the recent Lok Sabha polls. Strangely, arguments never elaborated on transportation hurdles for women at large which has been a rather less-discussed persistent issue. Opinions poured in on how cutting fares would be more feasible an option than waiving fares for women or more reserved coaches in metro and women-exclusive buses would be a better alternative. Some opinions went to the extent of mentioning gender discrimination as well. There is not an iota of doubt that those would be feasible but even those would have hiccups in implementation. For instance, cutting fares irrespective of gender would drastically increase the influx of commuters resulting in a greater footfall which the infrastructure may not support. Did experts analyse their opinions to this depth before audaciously countering Kejriwal’s proposal? Logistically, women commuters make up only a fraction of their male counterparts. Data shows that the total women commuters in the metro make up around 30 per cent. So the footfall to be anticipated upon implementation of Kejriwal’s ‘free transport for women’ proposal would not be much – only making a superficial difference in the size of commuters. This makes the move a feasible one without much downside to it. On the contrary, the upside is an increase in women commuters. The move will urge women to utilise buses and metro for commute against taking cabs which only congest the city besides polluting it. Free transport empowers women to traverse across the capital free of cost while promoting public transport as a means of transportation. The impact will be on both sections of women, those who can afford cabs and those who cannot even afford metro. While it allows the latter to take the metro and buses to travel without any kind of financial burden, it lets the former prefer public transport over personal transport or cabs. A win-win situation, therefore, is what the move brings to the table despite criticism. Also Read – Securing nutritionThe opposition decried a cynical approach by AAP to woo voters ahead of Delhi elections in few months arising from apprehensions of losing ground. Development promises are different than development moves and the argument of poll plank would come in during campaigning and manifesto, not in governance. What Kejriwal government envisages from this proposal is to encourage the use of public transport and increase the participation of women in the city workforce besides attempting to make public transport safer. On the macro level, these objectives would yield tremendously. And, with the state-of-the-art metro network that city boasts, and addition of more buses to the DTC fleet besides 1,000 electric buses, such a proposal also sits in compliance with eco-friendly measures to decongest Delhi. The proposal is yet to be finalised with modalities of the scheme being worked out before it is presented for consideration before the Delhi government. The draft would be subject to scrutiny and that is desirable since, like NEP, it deserves public feedback before being sanctioned. And, public feedback overpowers opposition chants and expert critiques as evident in the Lok Sabha polls itself. It is not a surprise that hiking metro fares decreased the footfall in metro with the students suffering the most in the daily commute. Waiving the fare off for women will allow the footfall to be controlled while supporting the influx of women students and professionals, who otherwise rely on cabs and personal vehicles for travelling. The draft proposal would be a topic for more discussion but the move, overall, is definitely a positive one aiming at securing transportation for women besides empowering them to commute by public transport. As far as affordability and sustainability are concerned, the influx of electric buses is crucial to the argument. Electric buses, Also Read – The exemplary neighbouronce inducted would augur well for the city owing to zero emissions. It would then be ideal to reduce fares for men, making it affordable. Fiscal measures like fare reduction or waivers largely help in implementing eco-friendly outcomes like increased usage of public transport to curb vehicular emissions that are detrimental to Delhi’s air as evident from the perpetually poor air quality. It would hardly be any surprise if more such decisions make their way in the Capital’s governance in future.