New Delhi to offer free public transport for 850,000 women

New Delhi (AFP) –


Almost a million women will enjoy free public transport as part of an attempt to make the Indian capital safer, New Delhi's government said Monday.

The city has been notorious for women's safety since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a female student on a Delhi bus that sparked major protests.

The measure will be rolled out in the next two-to-three months for around 850,000 women.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said it would cost about $115 million a year, but would improve security and cut traffic pollution.

The regional government is also looking to install 150,000 CCTV cameras across the capital this year, Kejriwal added.

Delhi, home to nearly 20 million people, is also one of the world's most polluted cities, according to UN studies.

"Women will be allowed to travel free of cost so that they have safe travel experience," Kejriwal told a press conference.

Delhi has a rickety public transport system, and the doubling of some metro fares in recent months has forced many people onto the streets.

Some commentators accused Kejriwal, head of the small Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), of making the gesture to win votes in state elections expected in January.

Kejriwal's party won a landslide victory in 2015 state elections when it offered free drinking water, subsidised electricity and healthcare and better education for the poor.

It also promised to improve women's security after the 2012 Delhi gang rape.

But the AAP failed to make a breakthrough in a national election in April-May when conservative Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a second landslide, including in Delhi.

The AAP is expected to face a stiff challenge from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party in the state polls.