In an era where women are fighting to get equality in every field, 50-year old Feroza Banu has come forward and become Northern Railway’s first track-woman.
Back in 2004, three years after her husband’s disappearance, Banu had run pillar to post to convince the government officials that she deserved the job and to allow her to join a profession where her colleagues were not ready to accept a woman amongst their ranks.
A decade back her life was an everyday struggle, with Banu struggling to help bring up her six daughters.
Eleven years later, Banu has proved her critiques wrong and now lives a respectful life. Fondly called ‘Feroza Aapa’ by her colleagues, she is a better worker than many around her.
Even at 50, she works 12-hours a day shift, in which she has to lug a bag around 20-kg packed with heavy tools.
Besides carrying this weight on her back for a long distance, she monitors a 5-km stretch of railway track near Charbagh railway station in Lucknow with scores of trains whizzing past her every hour.
Hundreds, if not thousands of lives depends on her everyday as even a small slip-up from Feroza’s end could become disastrous. But she doesn’t let this intimidate her and goes on about her job with utter devotion.
Talking about her job with pride, Banu told Hindustan Times:
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“From Utrethia to Charbagh, I have to ensure fitness and renewal of tracks, packing of sleepers, tightening of bolts and coordination with signals before movement of each train.”
Praising Banu for her work ethic, SK Sharma, Charbagh station superintendent said:
“Her commitment to her job with trains whizzing past, is commendable. And carrying heavy equipment on her back while patrolling an area of around 5 km is not easy,”
Banu considers hard work as part of her life and says that she has to work hard to survive and as “God has given me the role of ensuring safe travel for thousands of people.”
In the past eleven years, she has married four of her daughters and now lives with the remaining two in a house in the Alambagh Railway Colony compound.
But just about ten years from her retirement, she is still acutely aware of her responsibilities and says:
“I have six daughters, four of them are married. I have to settle the other two also next year before retirement. I was not able to educate them properly because track-women are not paid that well.”