Last July, the state transport department had announced that women can travel for free in ordinary city/town buses. Since then, women’s footfall has been on the rise in MTC buses.
From 40% prior last year, the number of women passengers travelling in city buses increased to 60%, according to official data.
Transport minister S S Sivasankar said, “In the past one year, more than 132 crore have benefitted from this scheme and the state government sanctioned around ₹1,600 crore as subsidies to various state transport undertakings including MTC to implement this scheme effectively.”
Citing a recent study by the State Planning Commission, the minister told reporters last week that the scheme has helped every woman, travelling for work, save roughly ₹1,000 a month and use it for their family expenses.
However, the welfare scheme is restricted only to ordinary category buses. “Many ordinary buses don’t have stickers on the front windshield, or they are not legible. So, many times women end up boarding the express or deluxe buses and end up paying for the tickets,” said S Puspthalatha, a schoolteacher from Ayanavaram.
To resolve this issue, MTC is changing the colour of ordinary buses to pink so that women can spot them from a distance and board without any confusion.
As a trial run, MTC will be launching it on select routes next week and it will be expanded to all other routes based on response, said a senior MTC official, requesting anonymity. Of the 3,300 bus services, nearly half are ordinary services.
Another issue concerning the free commute for women scheme was hesitancy shown by MTC conductors, who complained that they were losing out on their incentives (based on daily ticket collection) ever since the scheme was launched.
When this topic came up for discussion at the fourteenth wage revision talks, TN transport department announced that their incentive amount will be doubled.
Besides this, minister Sivasankar during talks on Monday said the government has agreed to various demands from the transport staff regarding Covid special pay of ₹300, promotion for 1,078 supervisors and increase in allowances, according to an official release.