“Feeding a hungry child is not charity, it is our social responsibility”

unlimited food for education

Children are being fed everyday!
I donated and made a difference!
YOU can do it too.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

TOI ,Crest ( 24/10/09) -THE FAIR SEX - UP & DOWN.

The new guard
The rifles may have felt a little heavy the first time they slung it over their shoulders, but the BSF’s first female contingent of border guards is learning to live with the weight of the Insas and high expectations. The LoC may not have turned safer overnight, but the women in uniform sure are making a difference

Every afternoon, Sukhwinder Kaur and her mother sat down to watch the afternoon soap in their sparsely furnished Hoshiarpur home but now that seems like a memory from another lifetime. Though Kaur and the other girls in her Khasa camp have been given a TV set, they are no longer interested in all the twists and turns of the family melodrama. The 22-year-old has plenty more to keep track of these days. Part of the BSF’s first female contingent of border guards, one of her main responsibilities is guarding the treacherous Indo-Pak border at Punjab’s Attari, and ensuring there is no smuggling of contraband.
“It feels different to have such a huge responsibility,” Sukhwinder says, brushing a speck off her crisp uniform. “Life has changed for all of us. So have the priorities and notions of fear and safety. The country is all we have time to care for.” The women took charge in September after receiving training in weapon handling, intelligence gathering, border management, unarmed combat, frisking and guard duties.
They rise at 5.30 am and after a quick breakfast, usually rotis and subzi at the Other Ranks mess, rush to collect their weapons from the armoury. They then report for duty, and are ferried to their respective posts. After an entire day of checking and frisking, they reach the Attari border checkpost in the evening to report for crowd control duty during the Beating of the Retreat ceremony. Back on campus by 7.30 pm, most are ready to hit the sack after spending a little quality time with their fellows.
“Who has the energy or interest to watch TV serials after all this?’’ asks Amandeep Kaur, another recruit from among the 640 women who graduated this year from the BSF’s subsidiary training camp at Kharkan, Punjab, after a 36-week preparatory period.
Though they took positions at the forward post to a tumultuous welcome from society and the government — followed, of course, by a media frenzy — most are still adjusting to a rough job at the 500 km-long border. A majority of them are barely out of their teens, excited as ever to wear a new nose ring or get their hands painted with henna.
The first shock came days after they began work. Four rockets fired from Pakistan landed in nearby villages, forming deep craters. Many had never seen such a thing before. There was more. Soon after the missile incident, a clutch of vernacular papers carried stories, apparently quoting a Pakistani news site, that insinuated the women had been drafted for the pleasure of the male soldiers. The motive was all too clear, but the bullet missed its target. “Those were attempts to demoralise us,” Sukhdeep Kaur says. “But they failed miserably. If they so much as try to eye our border, our guns are ready.”
As she frisks women farmers queuing up at gate number 112 in Daoke village, Amritsar, Sukhdeep orders one woman to let her hair down, and asks another to take off her shoes. “We have to do this,” she explains. “It is easy to hide a small phone or a SIM card and get it across the border,” she adds. The BSF has deployed women guards to improve security checks on the border, as women are being used increasingly to smuggle narcotics.
As an afterthought, Sukhdeep says, “The nearest Pakistani village, Kot Jaimal Singh, is barely a kilometre away from where we stand. You can even see farmers across the border tending to their almost-ripe crop. There is nothing to suggest these are two different countries. Even the height of the paddy on both sides is the same.”
But it’s not just the women who have to make adjustments. Their male counterparts too are busy getting used to women in their midst. “The men went through a reorientation programme and were briefed before the women were inducted. They are quite mindful of the women’s privacy while treating them as colleagues. Fortunately, nothing amiss has been reported till now,” said IG (BSF) Himmat Singh.
If there is anxiety in some quarters, there is reassurance from others. “The women are disciplined and eager to work for their country. How can we not acknowledge and respect that?” says assistant commandant Aman Tirkey. “They are like our daughters and sisters. And most of us, whether male or female, have come from a similar background.”
Apart from the crush and grind of daily work that unites them, there is something else that all the women agree on — being the first lot of women to guard India’s borders is a matter of huge pride. “I have two younger brothers, both still in school, and my father is a farmer who tills three acres of land in Mansa,” says Satveer Kaur. “I still remember what my father said the first time he saw me in my uniform. He said I was the eldest son. That meant everything to me. I don’t mind the arduous patrolling anymore. I come from a place where girls have traditionally been considered inferior, even killed in the womb for a male child.”
Chirpy and bright, 20-year-old Rajwant Kaur from Gurdaspur insists she’s got an even better compliment. A smile spreading across her pretty face, she says, “I met a child sometime ago at Raja Ka Pul village, a stone’s throw from the last Indian railway station at Attari. She said she wanted to be like me, wear a uniform and carry a gun, when she grows up.”

End of the line for Gujarat’s women coolies
For 130 years, women porters at Bhavnagar railway station battled both load and prejudice. Now, the ladies are about to be red-flagged

Saari duniya ka bojh hum uthate hai, log aate hain, chale jate hain. Hum yahin par khade reh jate hain.” (We carry the weight of the entire world, people come and go but we remain here)
— Amitabh Bachchan in Coolie
Thirty-six-year old Jayshree Vala, one of the 15 women coolies at the Bhavnagar railway station in Gujarat, is a huge Bachchan fan and likes to repeat this dialogue from the 1983 film. But unlike the actor who could firmly say coolies will always be at the station, Jayshree, perhaps the last of this city’s women porters, is losing confidence. Interestingly, Bhavnagar is the only city in the country where all the porters are women.
Butrailway authorities are now showing the red flag. Officials say that railway rules allow badges to be transferred only to male heirs. They also claim that those who have applied for renewal of licences have been told so in writing. In the eyes of the railways, therefore, the women porters are operating illegally.
There’s another reason why the railways want to recruit male coolies.
Bhavnagar station is expanding to accommodate increased passenger traffic and the general consensus is that women cannot transport goods from the original platform to the two new ones which are now being used for passenger trains. Divisional manager Deepak Chabra says, “It is physically not possible for women to carry heavy luggage from one platform to another.”
The 130-year-old tradition of women porters began in 1880 when the original group of firebrand women coolies stormed this male bastion and got their badges from the Maharaja of Bhavnagar, Krishna Pratapsinhji. The king had, in a revolutionary move, decided to employ three women porters at the station.
In time, it became a tradition for women porters to hand down their badges or armbands to their daughters or daughters-in-law. Today, the badges are considered a legacy passed on through generations — something to be flaunted on their arms with pride. Jayshree, who was given her badge by her mother-in-law Tara Amrutlal, said, “When she was on her death bed, she handed over this badge and her red sari to me. She made me promise that I would keep the tradition alive.”
Vasant Jamnadas, 50, who got her badge from her mother Gangaba, agrees that theirs is a labour of love. “We make just about Rs 30 per day and can earn much more if we work as domestic help. But we have carried on this tradition because we value this work and cannot imagine life away from the railway station,” she said. Vasant does not have children and has decided to give her badge to her brother’s daughter-in-law.
For Hira Jaikrishna, the oldest porter at the station at 70, the imminent death of Bhavnagar’s glorious tradition is also a great loss to the city’s culture. “When I first started working, the station was surrounded by woods and only horse-driven tongas operated here. The forest has now given way to a busy marketplace and the tongas to taxis. Everything has changed, but the women coolies have stayed on. However, I am not sure if we will be here much longer,” she said sadly.
There is still hope in the hearts of a few of the women, like Jayshree, who say they are trying hard to get the badges transferred to their names. But they may be fighting a losing battle.

No comments:

Post a Comment