On AAP’s Approach To Empowering Women In Delhi

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In October 2019, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government enabled women to travel in buses free of cost – AC buses included – with a ‘pink ticket’. It wasn’t just to make transportation convenient, but also a beacon of hope and progress for women across the city. Addressing gender disparities in urban transit helps create a safe and economical commuting option for women while also symbolising a larger commitment to their empowerment in the national capital. The step has been nothing short of transformative. Be it for education, employment or leisure, since the inception of the scheme, there has been a significant increase in female ridership in buses, a jump from 33% to roughly 44%. Currently, approximately 11 lakh women travel for free in Delhi’s buses every day. More than 100 crore pink tickets were sold as of February 2023, with the Delhi government spending Rs 1,000 crore on the scheme. Moreover, safety measures such as CCTV surveillance, panic buttons, and vehicle tracking systems are installed in 96% of operational buses to further strengthen the sense of security for women as they traverse the city. A greater presence of women in public spaces also builds safer spaces for other women, who feel encouraged to step out and pursue their activities. 

The Changing Economic Landscape

The implementation of the free bus transportation scheme for women has also acted as a catalyst for enhancing their labour force participation, thereby helping the economic strain on low-income households and helping bridge the gender divide at the grassroots. This has also contributed to Delhi’s economic landscape, which is evident from the surge in per capita income from ₹2.47 lakh per annum in 2014 to ₹4.62 lakh per annum currently, nearly doubling and surpassing the national average by 2.5 times. Contrary to misinformed claims that “free bus rides is bad economics”, the Delhi government’s fiscal prudence has ensured a surplus budget, which underscores the financial stability of the capital city.

Fast forward to today, the winds of change continue to blow with the introduction of the Mukhyamantri Mahila Samman Yojana in the Delhi budget 2024-2025. This scheme aims to help millions of women in the national capital, particularly those who come from marginalised backgrounds. By offering financial assistance for personal and professional development, the programme aims to bolster women’s socio-economic independence. It extends financial support to women who have historically faced barriers, thus paving the way for a more inclusive society where women can thrive independently. With this initiative, women are empowered to break free from the shackles of financial dependence, enabling them to pursue their aspirations. It heralds a new dawn of progress for women in the city, bringing us closer to a reality where gender equality isn’t just an aspiration but a lived experience for all.

The Girl Student

The Mukhyamantri Mahila Samman Yojana is just one facet of Delhi’s approach to women’s empowerment, which builds upon the foundation of past schemes aimed at fostering progress in various domains. For instance, under  AAP, the capital’s government schools are today providing world-class education to over 9 lakh girls. Many of them often outperform their male counterparts. Initiatives such as free textbooks, uniforms, and specialised STEM education for them ensure that no girl is left behind in the pursuit of knowledge and opportunities. This year, 933 girls from Delhi government schools cleared the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), while 123 made the cut in the JEE exam. 

The government’s commitment to women’s health, too, is evident in the establishment and expansion of accessible healthcare facilities like the women-centric Mahila Mohalla Clinics, which cater to women’s needs specifically, alongside the regular Mohalla Clinics and Anganwadi Hubs. These initiatives have played a pivotal role in improving medical outcomes for women, particularly those from marginalised sections, ensuring that every woman has access to quality healthcare services in her neighbourhood.

Women’s Safety

Though the Delhi Police aren’t under the jurisdiction of the elected government, with 2.60 lakh CCTV cameras under the Chief Minister’s CCTV Scheme (that is, 1,820 cameras per square mile), 87,000 streetlights on roads and 2.80 lakh LED street lights installed within colonies under the Mukhyamantri Delhi Street Lights Scheme, the AAP government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure adequate safety for women in the city.

The Kejriwal government is also providing free electricity and water 24×7, which has helped ease monthly expenditure concerns for women in many households. It has championed women’s economic empowerment through initiatives that promote entrepreneurship, self-help groups, and access to microfinance loans. This comprehensive approach has not only uplifted individual women but is also contributing to a positive change within families and communities, breaking the cycle of poverty and fostering a culture of inclusivity and opportunity. 

Leading By Example

Delhi’s unwavering commitment to gender mainstreaming and gender-responsive budgeting and planning serves as a shining example of governance in action. It can set an example for other governments too. By investing in women’s health, education, safety, social mobility and economic empowerment, the city is paving the way for a future where every woman can realise her full potential.

As other regions strive to emulate Delhi’s successes, it has become increasingly evident that prioritising women’s empowerment isn’t just a moral imperative-it’s essential for building a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

(The author is an advocate and senior AAP leader)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author

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