Even as the 2020 Assembly polls in Delhi approach closer, the Kejriwal-led AAP seems to be trying hard to somehow remain relevant in the Indian political scenario. After facing an embarrassing and crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, AAP has been facing an existential crisis. Now, in a bid to stage a revival, the Kejriwal-led Delhi government is once again resorting to populist measures and freebies in a desperate attempt to make a comeback during the assembly polls next year.
In one of the biggest populist measures rolled out by the Delhi CM till date, the free bus ride scheme in Delhi has kicked off from today. Kejriwal’s brand of governance revolves around doling out freebies in order to compensate for lack of administrative adroitness and efficiency. His governance style is driven by the sole consideration of distributing freebies in order to make electoral gains without any regard for fiscal prudence. The free bus ride scheme for women, which starts on the day of Bhai Dooj in an attempt to draw electoral leverage out of the significance of the festival, is yet another example of how populist measures initiated by Delhi government have emerged as instruments of fiscal indiscipline and wastage of taxpayers’ money.
It is important to mention here that as per a report, 5400 buses operate in Delhi, which includes around 3800 DTC buses and more than 1600 cluster buses. 43 lakh commuters travel in these buses on an everyday basis, out of which 33 per cent are women. Therefore, approximately 14 lakh women will be covered by the free bus ride scheme. Now, women travelling in DTC and cluster buses will be issued pink tickets. The Delhi government will reimburse the public transporter on the basis of number of pink tickets issued. If the Delhi government pays Rs. 10 for every pink ticket issued, it will end up spending Rs. 1.40 crores of taxpayers’ money everyday in order to finance its populist scheme. On a monthly basis therefore it will spend more than Rs. 40 crores every month and Rs. 480 crores on yearly basis. The question is where this money comes from? This move by Kejriwal government is going to have a deep impact on the coffers of the Delhi government. This free ride scheme is not free at all, it is the citizens of Delhi who will have to bear the brunt of Kejriwal’s populist scheme. Taxpayers’ money should have been ideally used in developmental work, however it is being blatantly wasted in financing yet another populist scheme initiated by the Delhi CM.
While the Kejriwal government is looking to use the DTC for furthering electoral motives, it does not at all seem interested in improving its operational competence. As per a report by The Print, the DTC needed 11,000 buses as of 2013 but even today it consists of merely 5,400 DTC and cluster buses. Delhi’s population has obviously grown substantially over the last six years and therefore the city needs more than 11,000 buses. Delhi CM Kejriwal is going to divert crores of taxpayers’ money towards financing his populist initiative. Had the taxpayers’ money been used to improve the dire situation of the DTC, it could have yielded much better results.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, the Kejriwal government has also proposed free Delhi Metro rides for women in a major populist move. The bizarre proposal drew the ire of even the Metro Man, E. Sreedharan, who penned a letter to Prime Minister Modi urging him not to agree with Kejriwal’s proposal to make metro travel free for women travellers. Moreover, the apex court also expressed concern about the Kejriwal government’s proposal to offer free Delhi Metro rides for women. The top court also observed that offering free rides to women may not be a profitable venture for the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
The decision to kick off the free bus ride scheme for women in Delhi comes at a time when 28 Delhi University (DU) colleges are struggling to pay staff salaries and manage everyday expenses. The Kejriwal government in Delhi which is engrossed in the temptation of announcing freebies in the run up to the assembly polls next year, stopped finding these 28 colleges five months ago over non-formation of governing bodies (GB). Instead of bringing these colleges out of the turmoil that they are in, the Kejriwal government is preoccupied in doling out freebies and making bizarre, populist announcements. In such circumstances, it is clear that the free bus ride scheme for women in Delhi is nothing but an election gimmick and a living example of Kejriwal’s vote bank politics.