According to the estimation by the RTCs, approximately 4.18 million women, including 1.15 million pass holders, were expected to benefit from the scheme. | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR
The ‘Shakti’ scheme, which provides women with free travel on non-premium services offered by State-run Road Transport Corporations (RTCs), successfully reached its estimated target of beneficiaries on Monday, the scheme’s first operational weekday. A total of 4.13 million women availed themselves of free travel on RTC buses on that day. Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation stated that this incurred a cost of ₹8.84 crore to the State exchequer.
Initially, the RTCs had estimated that approximately 4.18 million women, including 1.15 million pass holders, would benefit from the scheme. According to officials from the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), if the daily numbers remain consistent, the scheme would cost the government at least ₹3,400 crore annually.
On June 11, the day the scheme was launched by the Congress-led State government, the RTCs incurred an expenditure of ₹1.40 crore in half a day. Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy, speaking to The Hindu, stated, “This demonstrates the success of the scheme. However, we will monitor the figures for at least one week, and based on the numbers and an increase in women passengers utilizing RTC buses, we will consider increasing the number of buses.”
RTC officials also caution against prematurely labeling the scheme as an unequivocal success. They believe that once the smart passes are issued, the number of beneficiaries may decrease. “Currently, most women passengers are utilizing the free bus scheme out of curiosity. Their decision to continue availing the scheme with a smart pass will depend on their travel experiences,” added the official.
In response to concerns about increased overcrowding on buses since the scheme’s launch, Mr. Reddy stated that the fleet size would be expanded in the near future. He further explained, “The four corporations, namely the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, the BMTC, the NWKRTC, and the KKRTC, have planned to procure 1,894 new buses this year. Additionally, in response to complaints about gaps in rural service, we will enhance bus services in rural areas to ensure that women passengers benefit from the scheme.”