Karnataka: Gruha Shakti scheme offers free travel to women, increasing footfall and revenue dramatically

Step to empower gender minorities by Congress Govt termed as “game-changer”, generated revenue and recruitment, resurgence in daily ridership
Image: EPS

Last month, on June 11, the Congress-led government launched the much awaited ‘Shakti’ scheme in the state of Karnataka, which offers free travel to women and transgender people in state buses. With this move, the Congress government has fulfilled the first of its five pre-poll guarantees made to the people of Karnataka, and put forth its first steps towards empowering the gender minorities in the state. But, it is essential to note, it is not only the women and the transgender community that are availing benefits, the said scheme has become a game changer for the Road Transport Corporations (RTCs) itself, as they are witnessing a resurgence in daily ridership. In addition to this, the rising number of people availing bus services have led to increase in the number of buses along with a need to recruit more people.

What were the promises made by the Congress Government?

In the run up to the elections, the Congress government had promised 200 units of free power to all households under the Gruha Jyothi scheme, ₹2,000/- a month to each woman head of the family under the Gruha Lakshmi scheme, free travel for women in government-run buses under the Gruha Shakti scheme, ₹3,000/- a month to unemployed graduates and ₹1,500/- a month to unemployed diploma graduates for two years under the Yuva Nidhi scheme and 10kg food grains to each member of a below poverty line (BPL) family under the Anna Bhagya scheme.

What is the Shakti scheme?

Under the said scheme, women can apply for the Shakti Smart Card by registering on the ‘Seva Sindhu’ government portal, to avail the benefit of the scheme. As was quoted by the officials during the launch of the scheme, the free travel service would be beneficial to over 4.18 million women passengers daily and would cost the exchequer an estimated ₹4,051.56 crore annually.

As was stated by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the said free bus travel scheme has been rolled out for social equality and to ensure that the gender minorities, women and deprived classes get a fair chance to access opportunities in our society. “Women, who make up half of the society, have been exploited for centuries. Minorities, women are deprived of opportunities. Women’s participation in the workforce is low in India compared to other countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia and the United States,” the chief minister said, adding that he hoped the move will boost women’s participation in the workforce, as reported by the Hindu. It is essential to note here that a similar scheme had been adopted by the state governments of Delhi, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.

According to officials, all women, including girl students, without any discrimination on the basis of caste, religion caste, can avail the facility provided under this scheme. Gender minorities are also included in the scheme. It was also provided that until smart cards are issued, free bus travel can be availed by producing a valid photo identity card issued by Government of India, Government of Karnataka or government-owned offices, and getting a zero-value ticket.

Calling the scheme “the epitome of female empowerment”, Deputy Chief Minister Shivakumar said, “Women are like the eyes of a family… women are given first priority in our culture. We have implemented this Shakti scheme as the epitome of female empowerment,” as provided by the Hindu.

It is crucial to note here that in addition to free travel for women and the transgender community, the government also reserved 50% of the seats for men in the services which women are eligible to avail in all Road Transport Corporations (RTCs), except for the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) services. The said scheme has been implemented in buses operated by the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) and Kalyana Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (KKRTC).

Benefit attained by women and gender minorities following the launch of the Scheme

As provided in the reports of the Indian Express, as of June 29, the cost incurred by all the RTCs under Shakti scheme has breached the Rs. 200 crore mark in just 18 days, with the corporations recording a total ticket value of women passengers at Rs. 234 crore. The total number of women passengers who availed the scheme so far is recorded at 9.9 crore.

The scheme had been a huge success for women since its launch. In only nine days after introducing the Shakti scheme, more than 4.24 crore women had reportedly availed the services and the total ticket amount exempted under the scheme had crossed Rs 100 crore. In the said 9 days, the four divisions of the RTCs had witnessed a record-breaking influx of passengers since the launch of the scheme. A total of 60,89,910 women passengers travelled for free and tickets worth Rs. 15,94,32,747 were issued. Additionally, over the course of the nine days, the average daily footfall of female passengers in buses across the four divisions was 38.60 lakh.

Benefit of the scheme to the state

  1. Increase in footfall and revenue: As per a report by the Hindustan Times, the said Shakti scheme, newly introduced by the Congress Government, has been able to push up public transport patronage and the revenue of all the four RTCs in Karnataka, according to the latest transport department data.

According to the said government data, all the four RTCs has showed a significant spike in ridership as well as revenue. The number of passengers traveling across all the four RTCs per day on an average before the Shakti scheme was recorded at over 84 lakh. However, after the scheme, it has increased by over 20 lakh, with an average of one crore passengers traveling daily.

Additionally, it was provided that the average daily number of passengers after the implementation of the scheme of KSRTC rose from 2.42 million to 3.18 million, while BMTC saw an increase from 3.14 million to 3.83 million. NWKRTC’s ridership rose from 1.74 million to 2.33 million and KKRTC’s from 1.14 million to 1.54 million, according to the transport department data.

Meanwhile, the average daily revenue after the scheme of KSRTC rose to ₹11.51 crore from ₹9.95 crore, BMTC saw a rise from ₹4.72 crore to ₹5.18 crore, NWKRTC from ₹4.90 crore to ₹6.43 crore and KKRTC from ₹4.91 crore to ₹5.77 crore, the data further showed. Notably, the average daily revenue from passengers other than women is recorded at Rs 16.87 crore, as reported by the Indian Express.

The data also showed that NWKRTC (52.8%) had the highest share of women passengers benefitting from the Shakti scheme, followed by KSRTC (47.9%), KKRTC (44.3%) and BMTC (42.2%).

  1. Increase in recruitment, induction of more buses: As per a report of the Indian Express, with increasing in the passenger footfall and daily revenue increasing drastically after the introduction of Shakti scheme, transport minister Ramalinga Reddy had sought permission from the government to recruit an additional 8944 employees including drivers, conductors, and technicians and the induction of 4000 buses across all four road transport corporations.
  • Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation- Specifically, the BMTC sought the government’s nod for recruiting 2000 conductors and 1000 driver-cum-conductor. Additionally, BMTC issued work orders for 840 diesel buses and 921 electrical buses. In the pipeline, the BMTC is further calling for tenders for 121 electrical mini buses.
  • Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation- As for KSRTC, in continuation of direct recruitment of 3745 crew and 726 technical staff, the corporation has sought permission for the additional recruitment of 1433 driving staff and 2738 technical staff. The corporation has also sought consent to start 10 petrol bunk outlets to Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum who are selected in tender and to select 36 more petrol bunks in the available land of KSRTC through a new tender process.
  • North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation- Meanwhile, NWKRTC had sought permission to invite tender for procurement of 450 electric buses on GCC basis and procurement of 20 non-AC sleeper and 4 AC sleeper buses.
  • Kalyana Karnataka Road Transport Corporation- the KKRTC had sought permission for procurement of six non-AC sleeper buses, 550 diesel and 150 electric buses. In addition the corporation has also proposed to recruit 1773 conductors.

Access to rights and opportunities for women and gender minorities

The introduction and launch of the aforementioned Shakti programme was warmly greeted by a number of civic and public transportation activists, all of whom expressed their belief that the programme will help working women and strengthen the state’s female labour force.

Civic activist Srinivas Alavilli hailed the development, and said the Shakti scheme is a game changer for women, especially for those from small towns and rural areas. “A 10% increase in bus ridership is considered huge success anywhere in the world. While some women are availing the scheme to visit temples, it’s a short-term phenomenon. The derogatory comments on Twitter criticising the new initiative are unfortunate and lack an understanding of how social welfare schemes empower citizens while also boosting the economy. Money saved on travel comes right back into local economy and even taxes. Relative to the annual state budget of ₹3 lakh crore and the overall social and economic benefits accrued to lakhs, funding needed for the Shakti scheme is miniscule,” said Alavilli, as per a report of the Hindustan Times.

“Free public transport has many benefits: environmental, social and economic – that’s why more than a Hundred cities across 36 countries today offer free public transport” Alavilli further added.

In a report published by the New Indian Express, Shaheen Shasa of the Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV) recalled how since the year 2013, they have been urging the state government to bring down bus fares and offer free travel to women, transgender community and senior citizensas believed by the BBPV, the said scheme will enable more women and the transgender community to access their right to education, right to livelihoods and increase their participation in the economy.

“By removing the cost of travel, the scheme enables women and transgender greater freedom of movement, which enables better access to education, livelihood, healthcare and leisure. The popularity and success of the scheme are evident from how daily ridership has increased significantly. Women are travelling more than they did before, they are saving travel cost and spending it on other essentials for themselves or their families. Women who walked 3-4 km every day, are now able to use the bus. Not only female, even male ridership has increased. The scheme is a success,” Shasa elaborated.


As can be deduced from the data provided above, the said Shakti scheme has been successful till now to provide a boost to the passenger footfall in the buses as well as the revenue earned, all the while providing benefit to the women and the transgender community of Karnataka. If efforts are taken to ensure its success, Karnataka’s decision to offer free basic public bus services to women could revolutionise the state’s development. The strategy will help the poorest families, encourage women’s participation in school, the workforce, and employment, as well as release human potential restrained by unfavourable socioeconomic conditions, solving many of the gendered based problems faced by women in our country. Nevertheless, it is essential that the Karnataka government detangle the issues still left in the said scheme, and support it with a strategy to quadruple the number of public buses, deregulate long-distance and urban road travel, create incentive structures for transportation companies, maximise coverage, invest in footpaths, and finance it with parking fee revenues and advertising.



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