Ever since the Aam Aadmi Party announced free rides for women in public transport, ‘liberals’ of various hues have been struggling to mouth a decent defence of this wayward policy. The latest entrant to the arena is Shilpa Phadke, associate professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, who wrote an article for Scroll.in in defence of it.
Wise men have been speculating for a while that a person with average intelligence can be stupid in only conventional ways but it does take a certain degree of intellectual capabilities to invent new ways of being stupid. Phadke’s article appears to confirm these notions.
In her article, Phadke paints a picture of Delhi that appears to be inconsistent with popular perceptions of it. She says. “Research shows that women tend to spend less on commuting than men; they also tend to take many short trips that prove expensive.”
Well, which research says that? Again, it may well be true but what are the reasons behind it? Reality is a complex interplay between various variables, therefore, there cannot be one single factor that determines women’s expenditure on transport conclusively. There have to be other factors, what are they? The article does not elaborate on them.
She says further, “In Mumbai, for instance, working-class women increasingly do not use public transport, much of which has been priced out of their reach. They spend hours walking to work. Those who use public transport often take multiple buses even when a direct metro is available because they are cheaper.”
Again, this may well be true but what are the actual reasons behind the phenomenon?
Phadke the proceeds to cite her own research. According to her research conducted in the early 2000s, “public transport is the single biggest factor that facilitates women’s access to public space.” Then, the author makes remarks which appear to be personal opinions and surely not backed by her ‘research’. “Accessible and affordable public transport was substantially responsible for Mumbai’s reputation as a relatively safe city for women,” she says.
How does she make that conclusion? Were women safer due to the efficiency of the law local Police or because people in Mumbai generally commit lesser crimes than in other states where women are more prone to falling victims of crime? Was there any significant change in crime rates against women following the introduction of Metro rail? Have crime rates been falling steadily anyway or rising and does it have anything to do with public transport? These are very complicated questions and to reduce the complexity of it to mere accessibility of public transport appears to be rather dishonest.
The author then proceeds to equate criticism of free rides in public transport for women with that of reserved seats and compartments for them in trains and buses. It’s quite dubious because the extent and scope of the two is vastly different. One has a very limited scope while the other provides for indiscriminate implementation. Moreover, women still have to pay their fair share to access the seats and compartments reserved for them.
Then, the article says something that makes very little sense: “I see the move to provide free public transport as having a similar effect. It makes it clear that the government sees women as part of public space via the offer of free public transport.” Women have always been part of public space, even if there were some government which does not consider them to be a part of it, they would continue to occupy an important position in India. Women don’t need free transport to know that they are a part of public space. Well, as the name suggests, it’s a ‘public’ space and women are humans and perceived as such. It appears that the author thinks so lowly of the ordinary masses that she believes the masses beg to differ on that matter.
The author further says that “there is also the general misogynistic rage whenever women are given any services or facilities.” To prove her point, the author cites the example of women being given a 21% discount on the Berlin Metro, buses and trams to compensate for the gender pay gap. Well, I am not aware of the nitty-gritty of it but it appears to me that it’s very plausible that the criticisms of it were motivated by the fact that the gender pay gap does not exist in Western countries. It has been comprehensively debunked by certain feminists themselves. To call it ‘misogynistic’ rage is missing the point entirely.
The most atrocious part of the article comes towards its end where the author makes rather dubious assertions without producing any shred of evidence. She says, “In a country, where women’s movements are strictly monitored, often via the careful withholding of money, the idea that women could walk out of the house and into a bus or metro without needing to have a single paisa in her pocket is deeply threatening.”
These claims are motivated entirely by her own personal biases and a consequence of her own brainwashing by leftist propaganda. It has been a part of Indian culture that women play a major role in controlling the finances of the household. In many households, they control it entirely. The husband earns and the wife manages it. Of course, there are degenerate alcoholics who do not earn enough and usurp their wife’s salary to spend on their addiction but those are exceptions, not the norm. Whatever society she described in those lines certainly do not reflect the nature of Indian society.
It also reflects the ‘hero complex’ so many of these liberals suffer from. They have made up their minds that Indian society is damaged beyond imagination and it’s only through their intervention and the implementation of their bewildering ideas could India redeem itself. Such a low opinion of the Indian masses reflects exactly why liberal ideas have been thoroughly rejected by the Indian masses.
The hubris is further revealed when the author says, “If I were the Delhi government, I would make explicit the invitation to women in Delhi who can afford public transport to be part of the revolution of inviting all women into public space.” Women do not need anyone’s invitation to access public space. They would continue to do so as they have all this while. To believe that women were not accessing public space as much as they should up until this point only shows that liberals have been living under a rock all this while.
She concludes her article with the words, “Here is an opportunity for middle-class women in Delhi to demonstrate that they are truly committed to access to public space, for everyone, not just others “like themselves”.”
The article is littered with flawed conclusions that are motivated by personal biases and rather than objective truth. To give her biases a sense of legitimacy, the author throws in some research that does not make any sense in the current context at all. It is also worth pondering that the move was initially proposed to enhance women’s safety and yet, the author, apart from a single garbled point, does not make any attempt to explain comprehensively how this move in any way will make women safer. Instead, she has banked on the traditional feminist tactic of blaming it all on misogyny. It’s quite funny since if the criticism of this wayward policy was indeed misogynistic, there are quite a few misogynistic women out there.