From managing ticket counters to housekeeping, a batch of about 25 women has been deployed at this station to manage the entire operation
A ‘gang of girls’ has recently taken over the Netaji Bhavan Metro station in Kolkata and the women Railway Protection Force(RPF) constables were mute spectators to the ‘monumentous’ occasion. Even as the RPF personnel stood guard to avert any untoward incident, the station manager stationed several porters before the counters to assist the passengers and help them ‘deal with’ the gang members.
Many would deem it to be a scene straight out of reel life. Not exactly so. This metro station in Kolkata is now being run by an all-women team, thanks to the Metro Rail authorities who decided to start it on an experimental basis. And if the experiment clicks, then the authorities have plans to replicate the model in one or two other stations.
From managing ticket counters to housekeeping, a batch of about 25 women has been deployed at the station to manage the entire operation. The public address system of the station took the passengers by surprise when a female voice introduced herself as Saswati Ghosh, the senior-most member of the team and station superintendent. In fact, passengers were a bit surprised after entering the station when they noticed a bevvy of women in all key sections – public assistance booth, ticket counters, ticket vending overseers and platform patrolling staff. Ghosh removed, nay, confirmed the passengers’ faint inkling that a ‘gang of women’ had, indeed, ‘taken over’ the station. Cheers and spontaneous claps greeted Ghosh as she unveiled a blueprint for the smooth functioning of the station which included a hassle-free journey and an increased stress on women’s safety.
“We’ve a very young team who will be performing quite hard to meet the expectation of their seniors. This is the first time that the authorities have decided to repose such a major responsibility on the entire team. I hope each and every member of the team will do her best to help the passengers and ensure that their journey in the metro becomes as much hassle-free as possible,” said Ghosh who is surrounded by her teammates in the refurbished room of the station super. She began her first day by inspecting the station premises to figure out the lacune in so far as passenger amenities were concerned. She knew she would have to use her limited resources and workforce quite judiciously to serve the metro commuters.
“My duty roster is ready and I‘ve told my women to follow the duty sheet as religiously as possible. They know that not everything would be possible overnight. But we’ve to keep our enthusiasm and spirit very high,” the new station super felt. It would be interesting to know why the Netaji Bhavan station has been chosen for an all women station. As it is, the station is close to the fabled home of the great leader and freedom fighter whose legacy would always refuse to fade away. Secondly, this is the first Metro station in India (Metro in Calcutta began its journey in October, 1984) and also the first station from where the Calcutta Metro undertook its maiden run. Hence, when a proposal was first floated to man one of the stations with women railway personnel, it hardly took the authorities much time to select the Netaji Bhavan station to be another ‘first’.
According to the Metro’s chief public relations officer Indrani Banerjee who is extremely happy over the decision of the metro authorities to run a station on girl power, the selection of women staff has been done with great care. “This is no mean responsibility as we have to be very careful in our selection. It’s quite a huge responsibility and unless, the staff understands this, the entire purpose will go waste,” she pointed out. This apart, the Netaji Bhavan station, during the peak office hours or later, has not so far witnessed any incident that could trigger awe among the women commuters. Naturally, when female passengers noticed only women railway staff to take care of their needs, there was a great sigh of relief.
“I have no word to offer my thanks to the metro authorities for this bold decision. Often, I have to take a late Metro back home and it’s so heartening to see women RPF constables manning the station so late in the night. Three cheers for the Metro,” Dwitipriya Mitra, a private bank executive, exulted.
She was echoed by many other fellow commuters who not only hailed the decision, but felt that the authorities have set up a bold example for many state governments to follow. “I think one feels so reassured to step out of a train in the late evening hours and instead of eyes(read male eyes) that scan you all the time, you feel so secure to see these smiling women trying to help us out. Even if the platform is deserted, these women won’t desert us, I am sure; they are there to ensure our safety,” Bhagyasri Saxena, a final year B.Com student, said. There is a station porter and a pointswoman each in the station who is expected to restore the lost belongings of the commuters as well. “At the end of the day, it’s so satisfying to see our women employees shouldering such a big responsibility with such ease and it gives us a strong belief that we are on the right track of empowering our women workforce,” a beaming Ghosh observed.
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