The Karnataka cabinet on Friday cleared the proposal to allow women to travel for free within the state in non-AC and non-sleeper government buses. State transport minister Ramalinga Reddy spoke exclusively to News18, giving finer details of the scheme which was one of the major poll promises of the Congress in the recent assembly elections.
The new scheme will cover the majority of the services operated by the state public transport corporation and only women residing in Karnataka can avail of the scheme. “All women of Karnataka are eligible to travel anywhere in Karnataka including school girl children, except in luxury buses which include interstate buses, AC buses, and sleepers. All the other buses, which cover 94% of buses, will be available for free travelling. Only Karnataka residents can travel under the scheme,” he explained.
Further clarifying, the minister said popular inter-district services like Rajahamsa won’t be part of the scheme. “Luxury buses including AC buses, Rajahamsa, sleeper buses, interstate buses, including AC and non-AC buses, will also not come under this,” said the minister.
There are five public transport corporations with a total operational fleet size of 21,574 buses. The annual revenue from these corporations is Rs 8,947 crore yearly with an operational cost of Rs 12,750 crore per year. Thus, the government takes a hit of Rs 3,800 crore every year. The new scheme will further bleed the public transport corporations and they have been assured help by the government.
“It will cost us around Rs 4,000 crore every year but the entire amount will be reimbursed by the government of Karnataka. They will reimburse every month,” said Ramalinga Reddy.
What do districts with minimal government bus service get?
Several districts in Karnataka have minimal public transport service, it’s the private bus operators who dominate the transport sector. The BJP was asking the government to extend free travel for women in private buses also in these districts. But the state government has ruled out that option.
“See, wherever there are no government buses (like) in Shivamogga, South Canara, North Canara, private buses are more. There passengers may increase and even here also in Bengaluru, those who travel in Metro, they can shift to BMTC. Let us see. For one or two months we will see, and we can think afterwards what can be done,” said Reddy.