Women Porters in Bhavnagar
Ever imagined a woman porter carrying your luggage at the railway station? ‘Impossible!’ you say. That’s a natural attitude because we never get to see woman porters but such porters we do have. Yes! In India! They are at Bhavnagar in Gujarat carrying on this tradition or profession for the past 69 years!
For a profession dominated exclusively by men, this comes as a surprise and a courageous surprise at that. Having been branded as the weaker sex, women seem to be breaking many barriers now-a-days and when it comes from uneducated, economically backward women, it is really welcome. Many of our very own educated sophisticated urban bred women are not willing to walk that extra mile!
There is news now that the city of Allahabad will be recruiting 19 women for the posts of porters, taking the inspiration from the Gujarat women porters breaking the shackles of sex and gender. But not many know how the concept of women porters came out. Interested? Well, according to reports, Maharaja Bhavsingh of Bhavnagar had got a new railway station constructed around the year 1940 and valiantly declared that all the porters at this new station would be women.
It is from then on that women have been applying for this post and working as porters. They say that this generous declaration by the Maharaja has been keeping their fires burning at home! In fact, currently there are 22 women out of the total 26 porters in Bhavnagar railway station. Most of the women porters are above 50 years old and are grateful to this job that has been carried over generations. Mothers give the badge to their daughters or daughters-in-law and so on something like an inheritance.
But of course, there are murmurs in the air inspite of the 69 year long tradition. The present procedure of the appointment of women railway porters is raising a few eyebrows and the Union Ministry of State for Women and Child Development is stated to have demanded ‘details’ about this appointment. Though the idea of women carrying heavy loads of luggage is shocking to most people, it is a fact that many women do similar kind of work selling vegetables and fruits and, even carry heavy loads on their heads in villages. People are not very happy that another male dominated field has been barged into by women; they are also upset by the procedure test involved in recruiting the currently 19 short listed women for the posts. This test involves a 200 m run with a 25 kg sack on one’s head with a qualifying time of four minutes (it is three minutes for the men). The other reason that people cite for not allowing women to work as railway porters is the danger of pregnancy while carrying heavy loads. (Of course, the alternative for this would be using trolleys, which has been suggested by some). Apart from that is the usual reason of exploitation. But which profession is free of exploitation and misuse today?
The reality today is that another male dominated profession has been busted by women. It makes no difference what kind of job it may be. The woman can do it all. Almost! What do you say?