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Free bus rides turn bumpy: Many women reject freebie, insist on tickets

Free bus rides turn bumpy: Many women reject freebie, insist on tickets

Chennai: The DMK government in Tamil Nadu announced free bus rides for all women in the state after assuming office. It gained traction across the country as a project which helps women to access free rides on public transport and makes them more independent.

The scheme was well received during the initial days and the percentage of women riding buses touched an all-time high with around 61% of the total passengers in the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) buses being women. The DMK government touted this as one of its major achievements and showcased that the party always stood for women.

However, the honeymoon was short-lived with several cases of bus drivers and conductors belittling the women travelling free in buses, even hinting that they were doing so at the benevolence of the staff.

R. Sundari, a domestic help in Tiruchi, told IANS that "Initially we thought it was good as we could juggle work and work at two places or three places as we did not have to bother about travelling as it was free. After some days, the bus conductors started abusing us, using the choicest expletives, and the men used to laugh at this. Anyone who has a little self-respect would stop taking free rides. Initially, I did not want to reject it as it was saving me good money but later I decided not to travel for free and forcibly asked the conductor to accept money."

She said that the bus conductor did not accept the fare but she insisted that she be taken off the bus if they were not accepting the money.

The issue gained momentum after the Tamil Nadu minister for higher education, K. Ponmudi at a public function made some comments reminding the women in the audience about the free bus rides introduced by the Stalin government.

He asked the women there, "How are you going in the bus today? If you want to go from here to Koyambedu (a place in Chennai) or anywhere you are going in 'OC'." OC is a term used in Tamil for free.

This infuriated several people and a video of an elderly woman arguing with a conductor that she won't travel unless he takes the money for a ticket went viral. The woman asked the conductor, "The minister is talking like that!!? We going in 'OC'? We don't want to go in 'OC'!. We will travel by paying for the ticket. Prices of everything have risen and five rupees is not a big deal. Take the money and give me a ticket. We don't want to travel free."

This led to an uproar in the state and those close to the DMK came out with the statement that the woman in the video, Thulasiammal, was an AIADMK supporter and that she had tried to belittle the government.

In another instance, four women rejected free travel and insisted on paying.

After these incidents, the TNSTC has reportedly issued oral instructions to the conductors to collect the fares if the women passengers insist on paying.

A conductor in Salem division told IANS that "There is no provision to collect money and issue tickets to women passengers but daily many women are now asking us to take the payment, and if we don't take the money an argument breaks out. We have mentioned the matter to our department heads and they told us to collect the money and issue tickets if the women insist."

However senior officials of the TNSTC when contacted by IANS denied such an arrangement and said that there was no provision for collecting money from women passengers in buses.


Tags: DMK Tamilnadu Free bus rides