K'taka: Congress govt starts free bus travel for women

The scheme is available for women, who are domiciled in Karnataka, for the journey in government buses within the state limits

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah launches free intrastate bus travel scheme for women in Bengaluru on Sunday (Photo courtesy: @siddaramaiah/ Twitter
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah launches free intrastate bus travel scheme for women in Bengaluru on Sunday (Photo courtesy: @siddaramaiah/ Twitter
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PTI

Women in Karnataka can travel for free in government buses in the state from Sunday, with the roll out of the first of the five poll promises of the ruling Congress -- the "Shakti" scheme.

This free travel service will benefit more than 41.8 lakh women passengers every day and would cost the state exchequer an estimated Rs 4,051.56 crore annually, officials said.

The scheme is available for women, who are domiciled in Karnataka, for the journey within the state limits after 1 pm today.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah launched the scheme, which will provide free rides for women and girl students of the state in government buses, from the grand steps of Vidhana Soudha, the seat of Karnataka legislature and secretariat here.

Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar, Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy were among others present at the event, where the logo of the Shakti scheme was unveiled, and Shakti smart cards were symbolically issued to five women.

Women can apply for the Shakti Smart Card by registering on the Seva Sindhu' government portal, to avail the benefit of the scheme.

As per the CM's directions, district in-charge ministers launched the scheme in their respective districts across the state.

The government noted that this scheme would reduce the travel expenses of working women from poor and lower middle class, and as the savings can be used for household expenses, the scheme has brought smiles on women's faces.

"We have implemented the Shakti scheme today, at a time across the state, as promised..." Siddaramaiah said as he hit out at the opposition for criticising his government with respect to implementation of guarantees and accused them of trying to create "confusion" among people.

Noting that women comprise half the population of the society and this scheme has been named 'Shakti' to empower them, he said, "our government's aim is to strengthen women and ensure their active participation in the economic activities."

Other guarantees will also be implemented as per the timeline announced, he told reporters after the launch.

'Shakti' is the first to be rolled out, among the five guarantees announced by the Congress ahead of the assembly elections.


The other four guarantees are -- 200 units of free power to all households (Gruha Jyoti), Rs 2,000 monthly assistance to the woman head of every family (Gruha Lakshmi), 10 kg of rice free to every member of a BPL household (Anna Bhagya), Rs 3,000 every month for unemployed graduates and Rs 1,500 for unemployed diploma holders, both in the age group of 18-25 (YuvaNidhi).

According to officials, all women, including girl students, without any discrimination on the basis of caste, religion caste, can avail the facility.

Gender Minorities are also included in the scheme, they said. The free travel service can be availed in city transport, ordinary and express buses which accounts for 18,609 buses in all four state-owned Road Transport Corporations (KSRTC, BMTC, NWKRTC and KKRTC).

"Free travel for women" stickers have been put up on buses which are included in the scheme, officials said and added that it would not cover luxury and inter-state buses.

The CM also clarified that, if a passenger has to cross the state border while travelling from one district to another district of Karnataka in RTC buses, they won't be charged, but this exemption is limited up to 20 kms.

Until smart cards are issued, free bus travel can be availed by producing a valid photo identity card issued by Government of India, Government of Karnataka or Government-owned offices, and getting a zero value ticket, officials said.

After the stage event, Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar and other dignitaries later travelled in a Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) bus along with a few select women passengers from Vidhana Soudha to the bus terminal at Majestic. They even issued zero value tickets to women passengers.

At the terminal the scene resembled a women's day with female passengers being greeted with flowers and sweets.

Sumitra, who was among the women who received the smart card from Siddaramaiah said, "Very happy that I received the smartcard from the CM. The scheme will help women, especially poor and middle class. It will help us, as we can use the amount that was used for bus charge, for some other household needs."

Women should also ensure that they use the facility responsibly, and don't misuse it anyway, she said.

".. I showed my ID card and got a zero value ticket. This Shakti scheme will really help women," a female passenger said.

A female bus conductor said she never expected that a day would come when ladies would travel for free in government buses, during her service period. "I'm very happy as a woman as this scheme will help the community....."

The government has asked the road transport corporations to reserve 50 per cent of the seats on their buses for men.

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