Women commuting in state-run buses of Delhi will not have to pay for travel any longer with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government launching its "free-ride" scheme from Tuesday.
The Delhi government on Tuesday will also induct bus marshals in each of its 5,558 buses to ensure the safety of women, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday.
Availing of the free-ride scheme will be optional. Female passengers opting for free travel will be issued a pink single-journey ticket.
The combined daily ridership of cluster and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses in Delhi is about 4.4 million. Of this, nearly 35% are female passengers, says government data.
"On the occasion of Bhai Dooj, the Delhi government will implement the free bus ride scheme for women from tomorrow (Tuesday). To ensure women, students, senior citizens and every passenger feel safe during public transit, we are deploying marshals in every bus from Tuesday," Kejriwal told reporters after a press conference.
The chief minister said he would board a bus on Tuesday to mark the launch of the free-ride scheme.
Women travelling in DTC buses plying to other NCR cities such as Noida, Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Faridabad too will not have to pay.
The move comes ahead of the assembly elections in Delhi scheduled early next year.
At present, a ride in a non-AC bus can cost between Rs 5 and Rs 15 while AC buses charge between Rs 10 and Rs 25. The scheme is likely to cost the government Rs 350 crore in the first year.
The chief minister had on June 3 first announced his government's plan to offer free rides to women in DTC buses, cluster buses and Delhi Metro.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) conveyed to the government that rolling it out in the Metro would take at least eight months. But the DTC, being completely under the state government, went ahead with implementing the scheme in its buses as well as those under the cluster scheme.
Marshals in every bus
On Monday, Kejriwal addressed 6,000 bus marshals at a training session organised by the government at Thyagraj stadium. The session was held to make bus marshals understand their duties and responsibilities.
Addressing the marshals, Kejriwal said, "The two crore people of Delhi are like my family and as the chief minister, I am like an elder son of this family. As the eldest son of my family, it is my duty to ensure a safe and secure environment for women. It is now your responsibility to ensure that all my mothers, sisters and daughters who travel on the buses are safe and secured."
While 3,395 marshals are already deployed in buses, more than 9,500 will be put on duty from Tuesday. Around 10% of the total civil defence volunteers are women.
This means several buses will have female bus marshals too. All bus marshals will wear a red band with 'marshal' printed on them on their right arm.
Transport commissioner changed
The notification for the free-ride scheme was issued late Monday night after the transport minister reversed the principal (law) secretary's recommendation of sending the file to the lieutenant-governor for his approval.
Transport commissioner Rajiv Verma, who signed the file notifying the scheme with the minister's approval, was transferred on Monday evening during the same time. He is now principal secretary (finance) apart from holding the additional charge of principal secretary (revenue) and (planning).
The additional chief secretary (finance) revenue will now be the new transport commissioner.