CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday launched a free travel facility for women in government-run buses within the state and said this fulfils another promise made by his party in its poll manifesto.
Reacting to it, the main opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accused the state government of the bid to "copy" the scheme run by it in Delhi and termed the initiative as "hollow".
The party said the scheme has been restricted to government-run buses while private ones that run on maximum routes have been kept out of its ambit.
The Punjab Cabinet had on Wednesday given its approval to the scheme.
"With this, we have fulfilled another poll manifesto promise," the chief minister said in a statement, claiming that a record 85 per cent of promises have been implemented by his government.
He said the state government is now moving towards realising 100 per cent of its commitments made before the 2017 Assembly elections.
While everyone only talks about women empowerment, the Punjab government has taken several concrete measures to achieve it, the chief minister claimed.
In fact, while the promise was to reduce bus ticket prices for women by 50 per cent, the government made it totally free, he said.
Singh also urged private bus operators to understand their social responsibilities and reduce fares.
Women can avail this scheme in government-owned buses, including Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC), Punjab Roadways Buses (PUNBUS) and city bus services operated by the Local Bodies Department.
However, it is not applicable to the government-owned AC, Volvo and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) buses.
Expressing concerns over the crime against women, the chief minister said his government is committed to their safety and the Transport Department is installing the GPS in all government and private buses to enable easy tracking of the vehicles, in addition to panic buttons for emergencies.
The process is nearly complete for government buses and private operators have been asked to get this done by August 31, the chief minister said.
He further announced that 25 more bus stations will be built in the state to improve road connectivity.
Singh said the free travel scheme will give a boost to his government's vision of inclusive growth.
He said around 33,000 women will get jobs in the state this year and added that a large number of girl students have been provided with smartphones to help them study during the pandemic.
During a virtual launch of the scheme across 1,036 locations, Surinder Kaur, who boarded a bus from Baghapurana to Jalandhar to fetch medicines, said she was surprised to discover it.
However, Punjab's main opposition AAP on Thursday dubbed the announcement as 'hollow', saying that private buses that operate on maximum routes in the state were not part of this facility.
AAP leader Raghav Chadha accused Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of trying to "copy" the scheme of the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi.
Chadha said though an attempt has been made to "copy" the scheme of the Delhi government, "no application of mind" was used in framing it.
"To imitate something, one needs wisdom," he told mediapersons here, claiming that the Delhi government had made the facility available in all buses for women.
Chadha said the Congress government announced free rides for women only in buses run by it but not in private ones, which ply on over 70 per cent of routes in the state.
"Private buses run mostly on link roads. Buses connecting villages to the cities and those connecting villages to other villages are almost private ones," said Chadha, asking then how the government is claiming to provide free bus facility to women.