NEW DELHI: Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced free rides in the Metro and in buses for women who wish to avail of the facility.

The decision, which is likely to cost the government approximately 1,600 crore this year, has been taken just a few months ahead of the assembly elections.

The term of the Delhi government ends in February. The AAP, which swept the assembly elections in 2015, fared very poorly in the national capital in the Lok Sabha elections. Of the seven seats in Delhi, the party failed to secure a single seat and came third in five of the constituencies.

The government aims to launch the free-ride initiative in the next two or three months and has invited suggestions from the public about the implementation of the scheme.

“The safety of women is the most important thing for the AAP government. Keeping this in mind, the government has decided that in Delhi all Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and cluster buses and the Metro will be free for women so that the maximum number of women can use public transport. This is said to be the safest for women. They are not able to use these services also because of the increase in Metro fares," Kejriwal said at a press conference.

“We don’t need the centre’s permission for this. The Delhi government will bear the cost of this. The cost for the remaining six months will be 700-800 crore," he added.

The government is working on a voluntary model for the scheme, where travellers can opt out of the subsidy. Officials in the Delhi government have been given a week to draft the proposal.

Officials of the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation (DMRC), which is a joint venture between the state and central governments, did not comment on the development.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticized the AAP-led Delhi government and said the announcement was yet another lie.“It is a new lie by the Delhi government. They are saying that they will implement it in three months. What they could not do in so many months, what will they do now? If they really want to give relief to their residents in the last five months, the Kejriwal government should implement the Ayushman Bharat scheme," said Manoj Tiwari, BJP Delhi unit chief and Lok Sabha member.

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