Women lap up free bus ride in Telangana

December 09, 2023 08:59 pm | Updated 09:18 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Women taking a free bus ride in Hyderabad on Saturday.

Women taking a free bus ride in Hyderabad on Saturday. | Photo Credit: G.N. Rao

B. Revathi got into the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) bus at Narketpally at about 1.40 p.m. after finishing her work at a wedding on Saturday. She inquired with the conductor if the travel was free for women yet, as announced by the government.

“I believed that the scheme started from today, and was disappointed when I got the answer in negative. I got down at LB Nagar and boarded a bus to Secunderabad where I live. I was pleasantly surprised when the conductor informed me the travel was free,” she shared.

By then, Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy had launched the Mahalakshmi scheme for women and third gender, a component of which was free ride for women on City Ordinary, Express, Metro Express, and Palle Velugu buses across the State. The scheme was one of the six guarantees the Congress had promised in their election manifesto.

“Will this free travel last through the five years?” Revathi asked with apprehension writ large in her voice. “I heard it will be a drain on the funds.” A freelance wedding beautician, Revathi’s earlier mode of commute was her own two-wheeler. She bought the vehicle, pinched by TSRTC’s latest fare hike when the minimum fare was raised to ₹15.

“The price difference was very steep. It was not one or two rupees, but every jump in fare was to the tune of ₹5, which was too taxing for me to bear,” she said.

Conductor Ramesh walked by nonchalantly, his tote bag hanging limp from the shoulder, and his hands and mind free from the yoke of collecting money, and counting the change, all the while calculating the fare for the stage cited. It was like a mute button on the usual calls for show of passes, whistles, finger snaps, and intermittent caution about checking ahead that were missing on the first half of the bus.

“It won’t be like this in future. The system will be streamlined soon, and our work will get doubled. We need to check the identity cards, and issue zero passes for the distance. We are yet to know the procedure the authorities will set for us,” Ramesh says.

Y. Neeraja, a student, too welcomed the scheme, saying it would help her a lot in travelling from her college near Ibrahimpatnam every day.

“My father is a salesman at a small store, and sending me to college is very difficult for him. Any meagre relief for him is welcome,” she said.

Chief functionary of Bhumika Collective Kondaveeti Satyavathi feels that free bus travel for women has several benefits for women of humble means. Besides, it increases their mobility.

“Domestic workers and other small-wage labourers in the city travel long distances for work. This scheme will be beneficial for them. It will also improve their mobility. I remember the time during 1970s when I first came to the city. I would buy day pass at a nominal fare, and acquaint myself with one area each every day,” she reminisced.

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