Here’s how Bengaluru residents reacted to Shakti, the free bus ride scheme for women

Shakti was the first of five poll guarantees the Congress gave in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections.

ByDeeksha Devadiga

Published Jun 13, 2023 | 11:25 PMUpdatedJun 13, 2023 | 11:26 PM

Here’s how Bengaluru residents reacted to Shakti, the free bus ride scheme for women

The Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government launched the Shakti scheme on 11 June, Sunday.

It marked the implementation of the first of five poll guarantees the Congress gave in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections.

Under this scheme, women can travel free in the state buses within Karnataka as long as they are a domicile of the state.

The Shakti scheme comes with some conditions, including mandatory registration on the Seva Sindhu online portal or at taluk-level government offices offline to access a “smart card” that is to be used instead of a ticket.

Beneficiaries have been given three months to complete this process.

South First took to the streets of Bengaluru to learn how local men and women feel about the scheme.

Related: Siddaramaiah sets rollout dates for guarantees

Citizens still unsure of scheme

Sixty-two-year-old Mary, waiting for her bus to arrive, expressed uncertainty about the scheme.

She told South First, “It is a great scheme, but what happens if they withdraw it in a year or two? It is definitely a good thing, but only time will tell. ”

Mary spent about ₹60 a day on her bus fare before the scheme was launched. Now, she plans to use that sum for other household expenses.

Divya, a college student, had mixed reactions to the scheme. She also shared her thoughts on this adversely affecting men.

“The scheme is okay, but I believe even men should be considered for this. All the schemes are primarily for women. At least 50 percent of them should be for men,” she opined.

“Even men work hard, so they should also be considered,” Divya reasoned.

Soundarya, who mostly works from home, told South First she felt the scheme was a much-needed one to empower women from small villages, but added that she didn’t believe it would make much of a difference in urban centres.

“This will help women from small villages to be independent, but will be just money for milk or fruits for the urban populace,” she said.

“People who hardly travel will not start using the facilities only because of the scheme. People travelling by taxi and auto-rickshaws might start taking the bus instead, and it is only fair if they do,” she added.

Related: What saving on bus fare could mean to women in Karnataka

Men aren’t too impressed

Law Student Raju said he believed the scheme could have also been extended to men. Raju told South First: “Equality is only preached, never practised.”

It may be noted that the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) already provides annual bus passes to students of all levels at subsidised rates.

Meanwhile, Raju also expressed apprehension that the scheme might be withdrawn soon.

“I don’t think the scheme will be around for a long time. The Lok Sabha elections are just around the corner. It will be good if they continue for a longer time,” he said.

His friend Hari (name changed) cheekily added: “They keep saying that men are strong. Maybe that’s why they did not give us any scheme. It would have been nice if we had gotten the scheme. That’s mostly why all women voted for the Congress government.”

Social worker Naganna said 50 percent of seats in BMTC buses should be reserved for men. 50 percent seats in KSRTC buses have been reserved for men under the scheme.

“BMTC buses had seats reserved for women. They should now have those reserved for men. The reservation will be a relief for old men if the influx of female passengers increases on the bus. It would not be wrong to give reservations to men now.”

LIC agent Lingana expressed disappointment over the endless conditions placed on the implementation of the scheme.

“The scheme is nice, but seems very misguided, which is inconvenient to people. They have asked to register online, which creates more issues with the application. Every day there are new conditions, and there is no end to them,” he said.