Karnataka’s free bus ride for women scheme hit by smear campaigns, fake news on social media

Two woman sustained serious injuries following a collision between a KSTRC bus and a lorry. It had nothing to do with the Shakti Scheme.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Jun 28, 2023 | 9:00 AM Updated Jun 28, 2023 | 9:00 AM

KSRTC accident: The bus accident where a woman's right arm was severed and another woman was grievously injured. (Supplied)

The accident involving a KSRTC bus and a lorry in Karnataka’s Hullenahalli, where a woman’s arm was severed and another woman suffered grievous injuries, had nothing to do with the Shakti Scheme — one of the poll guarantees of the newly-elected Karnataka’s Congress government offering free bus rides to women.

However, fake news factories seem to be working overtime to portray that the woman was attempting to enter the bus through a window when her right arm was cut off by goons. Several Twitter handles spread the fake news.

The fake news said that the bus was overcrowded due to the Shakti Scheme, painting a picture that the women were turning into frenzied bus travellers, which is causing inconvenience not only for the men folk, but also for school-going children.

This fake news had spread across the country in multiple languages, including Hindi, to the extent where the KSRTC had to issue an official clarification.

Also Read: Karnataka launches Shakti scheme for women to travel free in state buses

KSTRC’s clarification

KSRTC clarified recently that the bus — belonging to the Nanjangud depot of Chamarajanagar division, bearing registration number KA 10 F 1501 — met with an accident while travelling on the Nanjangudu-T Narasipura route where it collided with a lorry — bearing vehicle number TN 77 Q 8735.

It is stated that the lorry was being driven rashly and in a negligent manner, and was coming from the opposite direction when it collided with the bus’s rear right side. This resulted in injuries to two women passengers sitting by the windows on that side of the bus.

Bus Vs Lorry Accident at Hulenahalli village in Nanjangud

The accident at Hullenahalli village in Nanjangud. (Supplied)

The right arm of one of the victims — Shanta Kumari (33), a resident of Magudilu of HD Kote — was severed in the accident and 59-year-old Rajamma, a resident of Hullenahalli in Nanjangud taluk, sustained severe injuries to her right hand.

KSRTC officers visited the spot and admitted the injured to the government hospital in Nanjangud for first aid and they were later shifted to Apollo Hospitals in Mysuru for further treatment. An FIR was lodged against the lorry driver at the Biligere Police Station, the clarification from KSRTC stated.

“Prima facie, the investigation has revealed that the KSRTC driver was not at fault. However, the KSRTC is incurring all the treatment expenses for the injured. It is clarified and brought to your kind notice that the incident has not happened while boarding the bus by the passenger as being depicted in social media,” the clarification stated.

Also Read: Here’s how Bengaluru residents reacted to Shakti

Of fake news and smear campaigns

Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV), a collective of public transport supporters in the city, who consider the Shakti Scheme a “game changer”, told South First that there is a well-oiled machinery in existence that is involved in smear campaigning this government scheme.

The BBPV recently flagged an Instagram account — @nativebengalureans — that has been posting fake news about the Shakti Scheme. There are also several memes that have been made using older videos of women fighting inside buses that are doing the rounds on social media in an attempt to ridicule the Shakti Scheme.

Woman climbing through a window of the bus

Video of a woman climbing through the window of the bus is not related to the accident.

“The other day, there was this news about women breaking the door of a KSRTC bus. But it was just the conductor and driver changing a broken door! And it’s not just the fake news, matters completely unrelated to the scheme are being reported as news. A woman leaving her baby at home to meet someone, a girl running away from home, a husband complaining about his wife not making food and what not? How is this even news,” said Shaheen Shasa, co-founder of BBPV.

“Not all of these are problems and these are definitely not about the Shakti Scheme. Such negativity about women getting more freedom, access, opportunities to go out and go around can only be a reflection of how deeply misogynistic our society and a lot of our media is,” she told South First.

The photograph of a bus conductor and driver dismantling the door of a bus in Karnataka had gone viral on social media. This was fake news once again posted by the handle @nativebengalureans.

It stated, “The Implementation of Shakthi Scheme: In the urge of getting free travelling, public property have been found damaged in Chamarajnagara.” The fact was that the bus door was loose and the driver and conductor were repairing and replacing it.

BBPV even tweeted, tagging @KSRTC_Journeys, “Dear @KSRTC_Journeys, an account on Insta called @nativebengalureans has posted fake news about the #shakti scheme. After being informed also they aren’t removing it. Lots of such fake news being spread. Pls start posting benefits of #shakti and also act against fake news.”

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

Other narratives against the Shakti Scheme

  • Free travel scheme for women has been unfair to men. They say it’s against the principle of equality.
  • Free travel scheme is abuse of public funds and a burden on tax payers.
  • Free travel for all women leads to abuse of the scheme by women who can afford to pay.
  • Women are taking advantage of the scheme for joy rides, to elope, leave behind their babies to meet their lovers, etc.
  • Free travel scheme will make the poor lazy.
  • Buses are running overcrowded and commuters are inconvenienced. Buses are being damaged because of the rush.
  • Men are getting crowded out from the buses and are finding it difficult to travel.
  • Free travel scheme will ruin the transport corporations and that KSRTC will run into loss.
  • The money spent on the scheme is better spent on education, health, and other essentials.
  • Free travel scheme will ruin the economy and India will become like Sri Lanka.

Also Read: Karnataka spells out who can, and cannot, avail free bus rides

School children travelling by JCB?

Students travelling to school in a JCB in Koppal

Students travelling to school in Koppal in a JCB. (Supplied)

There was another video that had gone viral of school children being ferried in an earth-mover (JCB) from the Shakarpur village in Koppal to reach their schools on time as the buses were overcrowded.

However, the transport corporation officials confirmed that since there were fewer buses on that route, children depend on lifts from private vehicles to reach their schools.

It added that there are proposals from the government to increase the number of buses on that route. 

Minors go on free bus ride to Dharmasthala!

Among all the fake news, there are some interesting true incidents that have occurred since the start of the Shakti Scheme.

On 20 June, two sisters from South Bengaluru’s Konanakunte, aged about 10 and 13, ran away from their house after being reprimanded by their father for buying chocolates on credit from a nearby shop. The girls had promptly taken their Aadhaar cards and had headed to Majestic bus stand after learning that they can travel for free on public buses.

They boarded a bus headed to Dharmasthala. However, after reaching their destination, they developed cold feet and called their parents using a mobile phone belonging to a group of women pilgrims. By then, their parents had approached the Konanakunte police and had filed a missing complaint.

The cops had tracked them through CCTV footage and found them boarding a bus to Dharmasthala. However, the girls were safely reunited with their parents by the group of women pilgrims who brought them back to Bengaluru.

During the counselling session, the girls had told the police that they had seen on television that many women were visiting Dharmasthala as they could avail the free bus ride scheme. Soon after this news went viral on social media, debates and discussions ensued.

Also Read: Transgender women eligible for Gruha Lakshmi, Shakti

Woman hurls stone at KSRTC bus

On 26 June, a woman was fined ₹5,000 after she threw a stone at a KSRTC bus after it allegedly did not stop at the bus stop where she was waiting for hours in the rain. The incident occurred at the Hosalingapur village in Koppal district on Sunday.

The woman had gone to a temple at Hosalingapur and was waiting at a bus stop to get back to her village. As the KSRTC bus was a non-stop bus from Koppal to Hosapete, it did not stop at the bus stop she was waiting at.

In anger, Lakshmi threw a stone which damaged a window of the bus. The bus driver stopped and allowed her to board. He later drove to the nearby Munirabad police station where he filed a complaint based on his senior’s instructions. Lakshmi, however, apologised and paid the fine and the police case was dropped.

Despite all these incidents, the Shakti Scheme has had a marvelous response in the state. The average number of women passengers per day in Karnataka’s government buses has gone from 10.86 lakh — before the scheme — to 21.43 lakh and still counting.

Also Read: Karnataka declares free bus rides for women — from girls to elderly