On learning that college girls are often being teased on public buses, a couple in Rajasthan initiated a free bus service – ‘nishulka beti vahini’ – in order to help the aspiring students pursue their dreams without any fear.
The initiative took form in couple’s mind when, in 2016, the pediatrician Rameshwar Prasad Yadav and his wife Tarawati were driving to Churi, their village in Rajasthan. On their way, they gave a lift to four girls standing on the road in pouring rains. While talking to them, the couple came to know that they usually walk 3 to 6 km on a hot and dusty road, to get to the bus stop to reach their college in Kotputli. The girls shared that on their way, they were often harassed by boys.
In an effort to help those college girls, Yadav took Rs 17 lakh from his Provident Funds and another Rs 2 lakh from his savings and bought a 40-seater Tata Starbus, which now provides free rides to girls of Churi village and other nearby villages.
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Initially, around 37 girls registered for the bus service and the number has increased to 62 as of now. The bus service has been running for a year yet Yadav continues to spend Rs 36,000 every month on driver and conductor salary. He also takes care of an additional monthly payment of Rs 5,000 for road tax.
The 40-seater bus seems a boon for the girls who hated the overloaded public buses and the harassment they faced every day. The daily discomfort affected their attendance records.
With the ‘nishulka beti vahini’ ferrying them, the girls are showing up for class in larger numbers. Aman Verma, a BA second-year student in Kotputli’s Shrimati Pana Devi Girls College, says she saves Rs 40 and one hour every day. “My attendance has almost doubled.”
According to a 2016 Human Resources Development ministry report, while nearly 8,00,000 boys enrolled in undergraduate courses, less than 5,00,000 girls did. In such a scenario, Yadav’s free bus service comes as a silver lining, driving the hope that others join in to promote literacy among girls.