It was an unusual choice that Chitra Swaroop made as a woman in 1971 when she opted for BSc (Civil Engineering) course at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) after passing her higher secondary. And after more than 40 years through classrooms and workplaces almost without any woman colleague she has made history by becoming the first woman Engineer-in-Chief of UPs Public Works Department.
According to C Debnath,former general secretary of the Indian Engineers Federation,Swaroop is also the first woman to head the PWD of any state in the country. Debnath,who is considered well-informed on such matters,said over the phone in Agartala in Tripura that there have been women chief civil engineers in states like Kerala,but no woman engineer-in-chief or HoD of a state PWD till date to his knowledge.
Swaroop,57,who was given the charge of Engineer-in-Chief (Development) and HoD on Sunday,has been the Engineer-in-Chief (Rural Roads) for the past eight months in PWD. Swaroop says she went for civil engineering as it was the wish of her father,Late S K Verma,who was a civil engineer with AMU.
Swaroop was the only girl in her class at AMU. Though while doing her civil engineering course at AMU,she had planned to become a teacher,it never happened. Swaroop says her mother did not let her go to IIT,Roorkee to pursue M Tech.
Later,in 1977,she joined as assistant engineer in the Irrigation Department of UP,where she worked in the bridge designing section. As I had seen my father working as a civil engineer since my childhood,I never felt uncomfortable about the job, says Swaroop.
After working for three years in irrigation,she joined the PWD in 1980 as assistant engineer in the building designing section. She recalls her first major project was construction of a sales tax office in Ghaziabad in 1980s.
Swaroop,in her three-decade career with PWD,has worked in Meerut,Agra and Gorakhpur zones. Among her important projects,she cites the construction of Meerut-Bulandshahr,Meerut-Garh,and Meerut-Muzaffarnagar highways which,were World Bank aided projects.
Ask her how it feels to break the glass ceiling and work in a department full of men,she says: All my seniors and subordinates have been very cooperative,whether I was in Lucknow or in the field. I may have enjoyed special treatment for being a woman engineer but never had to face any uncooperative behaviour, says Swaroop.
President,UP Engineers Association,A A Farooqi,said Swaroops progress proved that there was much scope for women in civil engineering.
Farooqi added she has become the engineer-in-chief in PWD while her elder brother Amar Kumar is a chief engineer in the Irrigation Department.