Ahead of early 2022 Assembly polls, the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab on Wednesday announced free travel for women in all state government- run non-air-conditioned buses within the state from Thursday.

The CM had announced the free travel scheme in the Assembly on 5 March, as part of his government’s efforts to empower women and girls in the state. The Cabinet formally approved the scheme.

An official spokesperson said the scheme will benefit over 1.31 crore women/girls across the state. As per Census 2011, Punjab has a population of 2.77 crores (males 1,46,39,465 and female 1,31,03,873).

Under the scheme, women residents of Punjab can avail free bus travel in Governmentowned buses, including PEPSU Road Transport Corporation (PRTC), Punjab Roadways Buses (PUNBUS) and City Bus Services operated by Local Bodies. However, the scheme is not applicable to governmentowned air-conditioned buses.

Documents like Aadhaar Card, Voter Card or any other proof of residence in Punjab would be required to avail the facility.

Further, all women who are family members of Punjab government employees and residing in Chandigarh can also avail the benefit, irrespective of age and income criteria, of free travel in the said government buses.

The spokesperson said this scheme is expected to not only reduce female drop-out in schools because of high cost of daily transport but also facilitate working women, who have to travel considerable distances to their workplace.

The facility will thus ensure access to safe, cheap and reliable travel for women to engage in any economic activity. Since the scheme is expected to encourage women and their companions to utilise public transport, it would naturally bring down the number of personal vehicles plying on the roads leading to consequent reduction in pollution, accidents and vehicular congestion, the Cabinet said.