In a surprise move, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced free travel on the Delhi Metro and DTC buses for women commuters. Stating that women’s safety is of

top importance to the Aam Aadmi Party, Kejriwal said that the measure enhance the security of public transport in Delhi. He added that it was aimed at the economically

weaker sections of women who could not afford the high fares of Delhi’s buses and Metro trains. The last time the latter were raised to boost revenues, Kejriwal had made his displeasure clear.

The idea has left opinion divided on social media, with many grumbling about the financial hit to be taken by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, a half-half joint venture of the central and Delhi governments.

The cost of the scheme will be borne entirely by the AAP government, Kejriwal assured such critics. While some wonder about the affordability of such a subsidy, however, others are delighted by what they see as a clear case of affirmative action in favour of women.

As some have pointed out, women’s safety in getting around the city was a key demand of the angry demonstrations held after the infamous “Nirbhaya" gang rape in Delhi. Protestors also wanted public transport to be available round-the-clock, a suggestion that appears to have fallen on deaf ears, alas. While free rides for women would help those who cannot afford anything except relatively risky modes of transport, how the Delhi government’s new move increases the safety of the rest remains unclear.

So, what gives? The AAP government has just suffered a stunning blow in the Lok Sabha elections, winning only one of the 40 seats it contested. With only months to go for state polls, this proposal is what many suspect: a pre-poll freebie.

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