Friday 29 September 2023

Shakti Scheme - Free Bus Rides For Women

In a previous blog post last week, I shared about the word "power" or "shakti" and how it is synonymous with men.

The word "Shakti" is also used along with the word "Mission" i.e.- "Mission Shakti".

This is to denote women power as "Mission Shakti" represents women and their contribution. 

We have Mission Shakti in Odisha. Women Self-Help Groups i.e. SHGs are involved. The aim is employment and good opportunities for women to realize their potential and attain goals.

Recently, another political party was elected in a large southern state of India.

One of their poll promises was the "Shakti" scheme.

Shakti Scheme- Source: All About Belgaum

"Shakti", the scheme which provides fare free bus travel for women, including students and transgender persons, within the state of Karnataka (on non-AC government buses) was launched after the electoral success. In fact, some credit this scheme to have a key-role to earn women votes in the election.

All domiciled women are free to avail themselves of this scheme. All they need is a Government-approved id card like Aadhar Card, else register on the portal specially made for this purpose and get the "Shakti Card".

The scheme has been in force for the last few months.

Many have been using these cards and exercising their choice.

The buses are overcrowded.

The transport department of the state is suffering huge losses that run into several crores.

Plus, there are lesser takers for auto services.

"Someone's loss is someone's gain".

Some religious places have got great traffic and many female visitors. Of course, the income of some temples has risen!

Some opine that such free bus-travel will lead to economic, emotional, social and health benefits for women.

Some of the men certainly are feeling left out. As per a news report, one man actually showed his Aadhar card and refused to pay the bus-fare much to the chagrin of the conductor!

Many girls and women have hopped on and are proudly taking the rides.

FREE! FREE! FREE! - always attracts many.

Free ride with no riders for women.

But, it comes with its share of issues and challenges for administration and family.

For example, two little girls left home after their father scolded them for getting chocolates on credit. Imagine the plight of the parents! Luckily, the girls were found and sent back.

Earlier in Bengaluru, there have been cases of girls running away from home and frantic parents sharing their photographs on social media.

Recently from CCTV coverage, one girl was recovered from the bus-stop while she was waiting to start for a long-distance journey. 

Are we really empowering women by giving freebies?

Some, who cannot afford, will benefit for sure.

But, such travel is open to all and does not segregate based on income or other criteria as all women are welcome.

They could have made this scheme subject to conditions- like only valid for-

  • AGE- women above 50 or 60 years of age
  • TIME- Happy-Hours- women travelling during a prior fixed time in a day, say between 2 PM to 4 PM or 12 noon to 3PM etc
  • DAY- women travelling only on fixed days, say Thursday or Saturday or Thursday and Saturday both
  • CARDS- Women holding BPL cards or Pehchaan Cards for artisans, for instance.
  • DRESS- Saree-Wearers - women dressed in Sarees

etc :)

The last suggestion above would have inspired more non-regular-saree-wearing women to wear sarees more regularly, at least on days they wished to avail themselves of free bus-rides.

I am writing this trying to support and make up for the losses of the state transport department.

The state exchequer has suffered such a lot in doling out this and other freebies that the government has now stated that there cannot be any development work this year as all money has already been spent on freebies!

Anyway, as per the ruling party now, this scheme is just for one year.

Do you think the women will agree to let go of the free service later?

Do you think this is about "women empowerment"?

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