On Thursday, that marks the International Women’s Day, Maharashtra’s New Amravati is going to join a fast-expanding club of railway stations in India managed only by women. Also, three trains — Barkichampi-Tori Passenger in Jharkhand, Koyna Express and Deccan Queen Express from Mumbai to Pune — will have only women travelling ticket examiner (TTE). Besides, Matunga Road in Mumbai’s busy suburban section will start its operations with an all-woman team from Thursday.
Over the last couple of weeks, small stations like Ajni near Nagpur, Chandragiri near Tirupati and Gandhinagar in Jaipur have been handed over to all-woman staff, who are discharging every duty — from that of station masters to cleaners, from guards to signalling functionaries — without fanfare. This is how Indian Railways, which employs 91,000 women, is carving out a new image of gender equality in its gigantic operations. The list of trains and stations run only by women is set to get longer.
Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani recently instructed that all the 68 divisional units that Indian Railways network is divided into should identify at least one station in its jurisdiction and hand it over to an all-woman crew. So, at least 68 big and small stations, one in each division is expected to be run only by women by the end of this year although the wait may not be that long.
Small, lesser-known roadside station like Phulwariasharif in Patna and Vidarbha Express, running between Nagpur and Gondia stations, will boast all-woman staff only on Thursday.Hijli near Kharagpur will also be operated by all-woman staff.
Also, the Ahmedabad-Mumbai circuit will have only women TTEs in Shatabdi Express running daily. The major thrust of this exercise will be in display on March 8 that mark International Women’s Day, with formal functions and photo-ops, some of which have already begun.
Begumpet station of Secundrabad joined the league on Monday, while Gandhinagar (Jaipur) has already been felicitated by the Rajasthan government’s State Commission for Women. Mumbai-based Central Railway has planned around 10 kinds of initiatives to enshrine gender equality in its operations, and so on.
It’s not just symbolism. Ministry officials said that there was a need to make some of the less-crowded, small roadside stations more women friendly and safer, not just for women commuters but also from the perspective of the staff.
“The feedback we got from the fields is that women employees welcomed this kind of unique work environment. In the Ahmedabad Mumbai circuit, for instance, women TTEs travelling together and using exclusive running rooms meant for them makes a lot of difference to their work,” said a senior Railway Board official. So, what about the men who were on duty at these stations? “They have been accommodated elsewhere,” the official added.