The free travel scheme for women in state government-run buses got an overwhelming response on day one of its launch today.
Women travellers were upbeat at the prospect of travelling free of cost in government-run buses. As per conductors of PRTC buses, a surge was witnessed in the number of women travelling in the buses today. They, however, added there was a sizeable section that was not aware of the scheme and continued to travel in private buses.
Most women at the city bus stand were seen waiting for government-run buses.
A group of three women who had travelled from Patiala to Bathinda said: “The move will not only save money but also empower women. We can now board a government-run bus without thinking twice.”
Gurpreet Kaur, a student from a village in Talwandi Sabo, said: “Bus fare is a major expense especially among poor and middle income group families. With free travel, many parents who send children for study to Bathinda city would be relieved. Women often stall travel plans, but now they will not have to do so. It is a good move by the government.”
Ram Singh, a bus conductor, said: “There was a 60 per cent increase in the volume of women passengers in our buses. Some did not have Aadhaar card or ID to prove their Punjab domicile, but we did not issue them tickets as it was the first day.”
Raman Sharma, GM, PRTC (Bathinda depot), said: “Besides benefitting women passengers, the scheme will bode well for the PRTC as it will increases the passenger base of government-run buses and thereby revenue. The PRTC will claim reimbursement for free travel from the government. Although, it will be challenging as passenger numbers will rise, but we will increase bus fleet.”
Private operators cry foul
Private bus operators say the move will hit their profit margins substantially
Narpinder Jalal, president, Private Bus Operators’ Union, said with only male passengers, buses were plying near empty
If reimbursement package had been given to the PRTC, same should be provided to private players so as to minimise losses, he added