While Tamil Nadu slowly relaxes the lockdown and normalcy returns to the state, the free bus travel scheme for women introduced by the state government in May is becoming popular. According to RS Rajakannappan, the state transport minister, 7.8 million women have availed the free bus service in three days and on average, over 2.8 million women are travelling free every day.
The DMK government came to power in May and soon announced the free bus service scheme for women in buses run by the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC). After Delhi and Punjab, Tamil Nadu had become the third state to make it accessible for women to travel on buses operated by the state government.
CCTV Cameras To Be Installed
The transport minister said that 7.8 million women travelled free from July 12 to July 15. Providing further details, Rajakannappan noted that as many as 5,741 transwomen, 51,615 differently-abled people, and 8,396 of their companions travelled free in the corporation buses. The minister added that the Tamil Nadu government is also planning to install CCTV cameras under the 'Nirbhaya scheme' in 2,500 state government-run buses, reported Hindustan Times. ₹70 crore fund has been set aside for the project, and the transport ministry had received ₹41 crore out of the sanctioned fund, Rajakannappan added.
Boost To Women's Mobility and Accessibility
The free bus ride scheme has been lauded by many, especially the working women in Tamil Nadu. Women have less access to private two-wheelers than men, and therefore they are more dependent on public transport. According to a study done by Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) Indian Programme in 2020, women bus commuters in Tamil Nadu's capital Chennai pointed at affordability and safety as their biggest concerns. Therefore, the free bus services can empower women in the state and give them greater access to jobs and education. For women coming from poorer sections, public transport being free is a massive boost to mobility and accessibility. The 2.8 million women availing free bus travel in Tamil Nadu only proves the point.
Scheme Will Benefit In The Long Run
However, with the fuel price skyrocketing in India, the transport corporation is running under the loss of ₹33,000 crore, the transport minister said. Besides, the free travel scheme for women will also cost the state government around ₹1200 crore in the annual revenue of the state transport corporations, as reported by The New Indian Express. However, the scheme is expected to benefit the state's economy in the long run by enhancing women's work participation. The project will also provide safety to women as more women will travel on public buses, reflecting in the recent data provided by the state transport ministry.