Free rides in Delhi
[Pink slips handed out to employees during recession or hard times has often been abhorred by employees workers unions but from 29th of October, 2019, women in Delhi would be handed out pink slips in city transport buses to avail a free bus travel in the city of New Delhi.This novel project embarked upon by the Delhi Government has an added buffer. 13000 marshals are being deployed across the city to oversee that the plan goes without hitch. Marshals will not only hand over the pink slips to lady passengers they would also ensure their safety during the journey.]
Delhi has been growing over the years but it has not been able to absorb the huge rise in passenger traffic owing to multifarious reasons. While first two decades of post independence era brought about white collared workers into the government sector into the capital post seventies threw open infrastructural sectors, small scale industries and tertiary operations drawing millions into the city. While structured construction was limited to government buildings, Corporations, Banking and Corporate enterprises a large segment of population spread like wild shrubs into shanties and JJ (Juggi Jhopri) clusters.
Delhi Transport Corporation that came into existence in 1948 later came under operated under Municipal Corporation of Delhi till 1971 and later transferred and put under the administrative control of government of NCT of Delhi. It has a current fleet of 3900 buses apart from a fleet of 1634 DIMTS buses which takes the total fleet to 5578 buses which include AC, Non-AC and cluster bus fleet.
Over the years with rising population pressure travel in DTC buses has been a nightmare. With Choc-a-block traffic outside, scenario inside buses turned inhuman too. People needed to pack themselves like sardines in sweaty summer heat inside transport buses and the uncouth behaviour of conductors besides reckless driving made travel in Delhi city buses a nightmare. City buses during 80s and 90s faced immense pressure and to make matters worse cartels operated infamous Blue line buses which accounted for large number of traffic accidents in the city. Rising number of eve teasing and sexual perversion cases inside transport buses besides erratic bus services led many middle class women to a switch over to their own private cars during the 90s and thereafter which can be attributed as the primary reason for spurt in city traffic over the years.
Hallmark of a developed city is its extensive use of public transportation which went missing in Delhi. While Delhi Metro Rail Services began its services in 2002, in the absence of last mile connectivity, many traditional commuters in city buses switched over to their own private vehicles including two wheelers and currently more than a crore of vehicles ply on Delhi roads despite a criss-cross of metro and public transport service. Today Delhi witness a bumper-to-bumper on most days of the year with frequent traffic snarls leading to loss of precious time as well as fuel owing to such hold-ups.
Would a change happen? I believe unless majority of a city population switches over the public transport situation on ground would not change. Perhaps an important step in this direction has been made. Today marks a deviation in the course of Delhi Transport. Perhaps it is a red letter day for Delhi as travel of women in Delhi city buses has been made free. 5558 buses operating in Delhi in which nearly 12 lakh passengers travel would witness free ride for women. With an added fleet strength of 1000 CNG and 300 electric buses, the overall fleet strength of DTC is expected to touch 7000. Perhaps this could prove to be the game changer for improving the fleet utilization and weaning away people from taking their private vehicles on road and switching back to Delhi transport buses for travel. I believe if Government of Delhi embarks on the plan to provide free city ride not just to women but to anyone switching back to buses a big leap will be made in managing traffic, pollution and congestion in Delhi. Perhaps a plan to provide free and unrestricted space to Delhi Transport buses on Delhi roads (as done during Commonwealth games) would be a big thrust in promoting city buses which could see bang on timings and larger use.