Free bus rides for UP women demanded

Agra, Dec 10 (IANS): After the claimed success of the Karnataka initiative, women in Uttar Pradesh are now urging the state government the facility of free bus rides in roadways buses.

Women's groups in Agra and Mathura have demanded free travel in Uttar Pradesh state roadways buses across the state.

In a memorandum addressed to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, women activists said real empowerment and social safety would come once women moved out of their comfort zones and protected environment, for work or for sightseeing.

Padmini Iyer, of the 'River Connect Campaign', said: "In Karnataka, this experiment had proved a hit. Hordes of women were seen visiting religious shrines and tourist places. A big chunk of working-class women in the unorganised sector felt empowered as travelling expenses had come down substantially. More women out also meant better and safer security for all."

This bold initiative would send a powerful message about the government's commitment to gender equality, Iyer added.

Nidhi Pathak, a prominent BJP leader in the Taj city, said: "Women travelling by government buses in groups would feel secure and less vulnerable to harassment or violence. This step would help create a safer and more secure public transport system for all."

This will also significantly reduce the financial burden on families, as women have to spend a lot to commute to work, run errands, or visit family and friends. Free bus travel would increase productivity and allow women to participate in the "Vikas Yatra" of the party, Pathak added.

Vatsala Prabhakar of the 'Mahila Shanti Sena' said: "Free bus travel across the state would economically benefit working class women and open more job opportunities. It was indeed the need of the hour."

Women activists said public transport should generally be free for all to reduce dependence on private vehicles. But to begin with, the Yogi government could allow free passage for students and women. This will empower them and help reduce their monthly expenses.

Though it could add to the financial burden on the ex-chequer, the long-term benefits of this initiative would far outweigh the initial costs, as it would help improve the daily lives of women and contribute towards building a more equitable and inclusive society, social activists said.

Jyoti, director of the 'Nritya Jyoti Kathak Kendra' said: "A large number of women of the lower strata could not travel because the ticket rates were very high. Women from rural areas were particularly hit and felt constrained. This could have a transformative effect on the lives of women and contribute to creating a more supportive and safe environment."



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