Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

NS50 Free Travel Entirely A Publicity Stunt

I’m completely disappointed about the stunt pulled by the four public transport operators to offer free travel to national servicemen on 30 June. It may have seemed like a good move on their part to commemorate 50 years of national service this year. However, their execution of this move leaves me wondering if they were genuinely interested in commemorating NS50.

As you may have heard, the NS50 Free Travel Day will happen on 30 June 2017, and to be eligible for free travel on all public buses and trains, national servicemen are required to wear their service uniforms. The donning of uniform is required for bus captains and train station staff to verify the free travel eligibility.

My first thought was about how this idea of donning of uniform is so totally absurd. Does any NSmen, that is those people who have done their full-time national service and thus are just living their civilian life now, want to wear their uniform out on 30 June, for no particular reason other than to get free rides? What are they supposed to do on that day, going about their daily routines in their uniform?

It’s possible, no doubt, that some people, true Singaporeans as they are who can’t pass up anything “free”, will want to take up this offer. They will dig out their old uniforms, hope they still fit into them, and go out to get their free rides.

However, is this allowed at all, the donning of uniforms just for the fun of it, 30 June notwithstanding? The Decorations and Uniforms Act sets out, among other things, to prevent unauthorised wearing of uniforms. I’ve not read the Act in its entirety, but I would be highly surprised that the wearing of uniforms for enjoying free rides is covered as an authorised purpose.

Perhaps the four transport operators aren’t so generous after all. Had they only intended to only recognise full-time national servicemen, and perhaps others, who happen to have an authorised purpose to wear their uniforms on that day? I should point out that even full-time national servicemen who may need to travel between home and camp, or vice versa, don’t ordinarily necessarily have to wear uniforms. Many could “book in” or “book out” in civilian wear.

I can appreciate the need to verify eligibility of national servicemen for the free travel. Surely, however, there are numerous other ways to do that. For SAF persons, how about showing their 11B? There are equivalents for SPF and SCDF. Or simply making any rides that begin from, or ending at, a stop at all SAF, SPF and SCDF camps and their facilities free?

The planned execution of the NS50 Free Travel Day makes it look like the move is entirely a publicity stunt. All the buses and trains still run as usual. It doesn’t actually cost the transport operators any real money that they have to pay, only the opportunity cost of fares not collected. For just one day, and only those in uniform, the opportunity cost won’t come up to all that much.

Of course we know the NS50 Free Travel Day is a publicity stunt. But perhaps try harder, and make the commemorative effort more genuine?

NS50 Free Travel Day is supposed to be a good thing. But with public scrutiny on people wearing uniform on public transport, the eligible national servicemen may be put off. Free ride, but seat not included, lest there be risk of free exposure of the undesirable sort. I think most NSmen will just pass up this offer.

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