Mirza Salma Beg is no ordinary girl. She wanted to reach the stars. Grow and prosper. She wanted a good life for her and her family. A girl with dreams in her eyes, she is a humanities graduate. Circumstances though are such that she had to take up manning the gates of Railway Crossing as a vocation. But guess what she is if reports are to be believed the only woman in the trade.
You ask her that was it her choice, she promptly says that my parents were not keeping well and I had to take over the baton. Is she happy? She says she is optimistic that future holds good times for her. She however does spell out that there have been times when people have poked fun at her.
Wearing a hijab, she singlehandedly takes care of the Malhaur station’s level crossing. Mirza Salma Beg, 23, hails from the city of Lucknow and is India’s only woman ‘gateman’.
A usual day for Salma starts quarter to 8 in morning, takes charge from those on night duty and starts her daily work. Every hour the telephone rings informing of a train. She religiously takes notes and closes the gate giving a green signal to the train. Once the train passes by the crossing she has to unlock the gate and again make entry in official records.
A gateman operates level crossings in Indian Railways, shuts down road traffic at tracks which people cross by foot or in other vehicles. At the Malhaur station in Lucknow, excluding her, the team comprises of eleven male gatemen. Interestingly before Beg, no woman has been recruited for the position.
Sadly her mother is paralysed and her father is unable to take up the work of a gateman anymore as he is partially deaf. Relatives, cousins and friends all had questioned her on the move but she fought on. The family made her realise that no job in the world was difficult for a woman to do and therefore she finally made a decision to take it up. Beg was determined to work as a gateman and took up the job up in January 2013.
Beg works for 12 hours a day and had taken up the job for the survival of the family so that her little sister could continue studies. Now she doesn’t mind working as a gateman for the rest of her life.
The Chief Public Information Officer of Northern Railways has been quoted as saying that they have no record of any other woman working as a ‘gateman’ in India as of now.
While news about this girl has been widely reported across the media, the girl feels that this is no big deal.
Many of her seniors have worked with her father Mirza Salim Beg, before he took retirement from active service in 2010 due to failing health conditions.
Malhaur station happens to be one of the busiest amongst sub stations with nearly 8 railway crossing under its administration. The gates usually see passing of approximately 130+ trains in a single day.
In Lucknow and UP at large, women have been making their presence felt in railways. Especially in areas such as manning railway gates, keeping train tracks fit and checking tickets.
Women also have a sizeable presence in nursing and RPF. There are two sub-inspectors and 30 constables in the RPF whose services are being specifically taken for women safety.
While India today has become a place where women have become equal to women in all aspects, it is stories like these that once again reaffirm one’s faith on woman power. Won’t be an exaggeration to call Mirza Salma Beg the pride of Lucknow.