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Ex-planning commission advisor backs AAP govt's free ride scheme for women

NEW DELHI: Former principal advisor in Planning Commission of India Renuka Viswanathan hailed Delhi government scheme of free travel for women in Metro and Bus on Sunday in response to the letter written by "Metro Man" E Sreedharan. "As a former principal advisor in Planning Commission of India and someone with a doctorate in public finance here are my views about the proposal by Delhi govt to make public transport free for women and the concerns raised by metro man Sreedharan Ji, about this proposal," she wrote.

In a series of tweets, she responded to the metro man on socio-economic benefits of the scheme. "Sreedharan is taking public finance administrative approach. We were taught that subsidies are per se bad because they distort market prices. But most markets are already distorted in favour of those who have better information, they are also captured by those who have means," she wrote. Viswanathan a top IAS official who is also a member of AAP also observed, "But subsidies can empower weaker groups, set right market distortions and give the right incentives. I have seen countries like Brazil where certain groups (older people eg) travel free in buses. By giving women this concession, Delhi govt has recognised how important mobility is to empower women. In my experience, a woman who has no money of her own and also cannot move around freely is not empowered."

She focused on the issue of the socio-economic situation of women in India irrespective of class, urban or rural. She wrote. "Even women in rich families have their mobility controlled or are kept short of funds. Women who earn their own incomes too are often forced to hand it all over to controlling males and cannot escape abusive homes. These are all facts of life." She added that Free bus travel for women will redress some imbalances. Those of us who want to pay for bus travel can do so if we wish. Sreedharan's ideas will work only if we have a society where women are treated as equals.

Earlier, E Sreedharan in a letter to PM Narendra Modi wrote, "One shareholder cannot take a unilateral decision to give concession to one section of the community and push Delhi Metro into inefficiency and bankruptcy." He further wrote that he had decided to "not intervene in the working of the Delhi Metro, but the Delhi government's decision has forced him to come forward". Meanwhile, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj responded saying, "We want to assure Mr Sreedharan that Delhi Metro will not suffer any losses since the Delhi government will reimburse the agency for free rides taken by women, thus eliminating the possibility of inefficiency."

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