One year on, Karnataka’s Shakti scheme smart cards yet to become a reality

The Transport Department, alongside the Centre for e-Governance, has successfully created prototypes of the smart cards for the Shakti scheme, said Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy

Published - June 11, 2024 10:01 pm IST - Bengaluru

The Shakti scheme has facilitated over 226 crore rides, with the total value of free tickets amounting to ₹5,526 crore.

The Shakti scheme has facilitated over 226 crore rides, with the total value of free tickets amounting to ₹5,526 crore. | Photo Credit: H.S. MANJUNATH

The Shakti Scheme in Karnataka has completed its first year, yet the smart cards intended for the beneficiaries remain undistributed. According to Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy, while the smart cards have been prepared, their issuance has been stalled due to the absence of electronic ticketing machines (ETMs) in all buses, making them impractical.

The Transport Department, alongside the Centre for e-Governance (CeG), has successfully created prototypes of smart cards for the scheme, Mr. Reddy told The Hindu. However, he said the rollout of these smart cards might be delayed because their suitability for use on city routes, especially within the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) jurisdiction and in ETMs, needs to be evaluated.

Although the scheme has already facilitated over 226 crore rides, with the total value of free tickets amounting to ₹5,526 crore, the government’s plan to distribute smart cards to women passengers, originally scheduled to be implemented within three months of the scheme’s launch on June 11, 2023, has faced delays.

“The smart cards have the potential to be used for long-distance routes on the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses. However, their applicability for the BMTC and other short-distance city buses within the State requires careful evaluation. Due to the high volume of short-duration trips on city buses, implementing the smart cards for the scheme may be challenging,” Mr. Reddy explained.

On June 11, 2023, the newly elected Congress government in Karnataka introduced the Shakti scheme, the first of its five election promises. This initiative allows women to travel for free on non-premium State-run buses throughout Karnataka. Since its inception, the scheme has been well-received by female passengers. At the scheme’s launch, the government announced that women who want to benefit from the scheme must apply through the official scheme portal and submit a valid government-issued ID card as proof of identity. After this, the RTCs will distribute Shakti smart cards, which utilise a ‘tap-and-travel’ technology. This system requires passengers to tap their smart cards on the conductors’ ticketing machines.

At present, female passengers show a valid identity card issued by either the Central or State government to get a ‘zero ticket’ (free ticket) for bus travel. Mr. Reddy said, “Now, the road transport corporations (RTCs) are managing well without the smart cards, and conductors are issuing tickets after verifying the identity cards of women passengers. There are no significant issues with ticket issuance. However, it is acknowledged that smart cards would be beneficial for both passengers and conductors by saving time. Additionally, the government would get data on the beneficiaries of the scheme, as the smart cards can be tapped on the ETMs.”

Earlier, the CeG had expressed concerns about developing the smart cards due to the high volume and associated manufacturing challenges. However, Mr. Reddy said the department eventually agreed to take up the project.

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