Women in 3 districts save ₹888 a month on average due to free bus travel, finds T.N. Planning Commission study

Women boarding a bus following Tamil Nadu government annoucement of free bus travel, in Ambattur, Chennai. File photo

Women boarding a bus following Tamil Nadu government annoucement of free bus travel, in Ambattur, Chennai. File photo
| Photo Credit: M. Vedhan

Women passengers in Nagapattinam, Maduraiand Tiruppur, who avail themselves of the zero-ticket bus travel scheme, save on an average ₹888 every month, according to a study done by the State Planning Commission.

The study, ‘A Report on the Zero Ticket Bus Travel Scheme For Women in State Owned Bus Transport Corporations,’ was done by M. Vijayabaskar, additional full-time member of the State Planning Commission, along with policy consultants. It shows that savings across different occupational categories of women passengers range from ₹756 to ₹1,012 a month. The report was submitted to Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Friday.

Unique criteria

These three districts were selected because the team wanted to look at three unique markets. Nagapattinam was chosen to see how women in the agriculture belt commute; Tiruppurwas taken to see how women in industrial belts commute; and Madurai was chosen for being a major trading centre as well as a tourist destination. The field survey was conducted from August 4, 2022, to August 30, 2022.

Though the scheme is operational in buses originating from urban centres, women from rural households benefit more from the scheme than urban users.

About 39% of the users belong to the Scheduled Castes, 21% to the Most Backward Classes and 18% to the Backward Classes. This distribution suggests that the scheme benefits women of the marginalised social groups more than their share in the State’s population. Almost 50% of the women travelers are aged over 40.

Women who were questioned for this study have reported reduced dependence on family members for their travel needs, contributing to their empowerment and dignity. Most respondents have said they use the savings from this scheme for additional household expenses.

The study also shows that there are several challenges, too. For instance, in Tiruppur, the respondents have complained about the negative attitude of drivers and conductors while interacting with the passengers. As a result, some respondents complain buses often do not halt at regular stops or arrive late. Hence, passengers see travel as unreliable at peak hours.

Owing to the increased demand, there tends to be a greater rush at peak hours in buses operating from the peripheries towards Tiruppur. Women working in factories, therefore, prefer taking zero-ticket buses only while returning home. This routine was reported by a few respondents in Madurai, too.

A few of the textile units have stopped transport for women workers. Instead, they reimburse the ticket cost if the women travel to work on private buses. There are also a few complaints of the non-availability of whiteboard buses in the areas bordering Tiruppur.

Status in Chennai

The team had earlier done a study in respect of Chennai city. It showed that women passengers made around 50 trips a month under the scheme and were able to save up to ₹858 a month. The sampling was divided across the three routes — Koyambedu-Thiruvottiyur(route number 159A), Tambaram-Chengalpattu(route number 500) and Broadway-KannagiNagar(route number 102B).

According to the study, there was a perception that the frequency of buses under the scheme had come down. This deterred some women from availing themselves of this scheme as they should be at their places of work or vending at a particular time. The delay forced some of them to move to more expensive and faster modes of travel. This required attention, the report said.

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