Sunday, December 10, 2023

Free ride for women in DMRC and interrogating men of Delhi

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Photo courtesy: Renuka, Indian Express

Alaka Aditi

The more the number of women in public space, the safer it becomes for them, was the foundational essence of the new policy of Delhi government. AAP- the only government that finally took a strong step to provide a safer commuting option for women. This was done by announcing free commute on public transport for women in Delhi metro and DTC bus.

According to John Rawls’ idea of justice, one can’t implement equal laws in an unequal society for it will propagate even more inequality. Similarly, if our society treats women differently then we need to have different laws too to overcome the difference. With Delhi government’s take on free ride for women in Delhi metro and DTC buses a controversial situation was created. A lot of men questioned how DTC busses will be affected as women of all class will take metro now; and how Delhi government was using dedicated men’s tax money to provide free services to women; and that it will increase risk of safety issues for women travelling in buses. I’ll come to answer that but first let’s see government’s take on this.

Delhi government admitted that the fare hike in metro last year had hit the women the worst and it led to shifting them back to buses, which we all know that is very unsafe during any time of the day. This also suggests that people arguing that women will not use buses much which will lead to loss for DTC bus, these people obviously ignored the women coming from marginalized section and poor economic background. In a lot of places metro lines haven’t reached yet. On addition to that a lot of routes are preferred by bus as it’s time saving. The middle class and upper middle class section always tend to forget about those women who are daily wage earner, who do not reside in their apartments, who try to save every penny to make a living.

The ticket price reimbursed by the Delhi government was questioned a lot, as also mentioned in the above question. But isn’t the tax money collected for providing basic facilities to everyone, in which women also come? If women’s movement is compromised, then the government is responsible for the compensation. Article 19 (1) (D) is about right to move freely throughout the territory of India. The unsafe street of Delhi which is the result of lack of law and order is the reason women can’t commute freely. Thanks to Kejriwal, someone took it seriously!

When people say that DTC will be affected as it’ll go in loss, those people really need to travel in the buses. I am pretty sure they don’t know what it looks like inside the buses, as everyday a lot of women travel in it and prefer it too. The ratio of men and women doesn’t have a huge gap that people imagine it to be.

It’s hard sometimes to accept that women actually needed this. Making the travel free for all women seems to be a big step. Let’s once again remember how Delhi has been hailed as the RAPE CAPITAL of India. If more women had been there, on those empty streets at night, men might not have harassed all those women who had to choose those unsafe means for traveling at night. It’s true, if there are more women in public space, it will be safer. Women should actually go out and reclaim all the public spaces.

We have been conditioned for so long to not to go out if we don’t have a purpose. But you see men hanging out at pan-walas, or just chilling on roadside, standing. I’m not encouraging for one to be idle, but to move out to public spaces, its common good, it’s made for us too, we women are supposed to enjoy and use that too.

Men don’t see their privilege. How often, at late night, in a friend’s circle a woman was told, “It might be unsafe to take you with us at this hour. You stay in room, we’ll come back later.” I feel restricted because I can’t go out on roads after 11pm. The worst part about it is that it’s so easy for men in a lot of way. They don’t have to think twice before stepping out of their homes. Imagine the case for daily commuters.

The sickest thing I ever encountered in Delhi metro/DTC debates is the alternate option of more surveillance that men suggested. No. Women are already restricted in a lot of ways, at homes, in public, in offices, in workspaces. Not on the roads now. No more surveillance for ensuring our safety and then using it against us. Government has already invaded my private space with UIDAI!

Lastly, people opposing this step of Delhi government and calling it propaganda, need to step out of their rooms. And see, what a relief it is for women after them facing the wage gaps for the reason of them being just a WOMAN. And see the condition in which women from marginalized sections are commuting every day. The so called “woke” people ignore the struggles of marginalized women very conveniently.

Alaka Aditi is a graduate in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi and she lives in New Delhi

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