The Women Mechanics of UP Roadways Wield Wrenches and Break Stereotypes
In Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation’s regional workshop in Kanpur, ten women mechanics work shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. They are trained under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana.
Manish Dubey 1 Nov 2023 7:07 AM GMT
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh
A not so ordinary sight awaits you at the noisy workshop for buses of the Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation in Kanpur. The public sector corporation has the largest fleet of buses in north India.
At the regional workshop, located about a kilometre away from the bustling Fazal Ganj Chauraha in Kanpur, there are women moving around wielding wrenches, screwdrivers, drills and grease with ease as they tinker around the big vehicles, repairing or servicing them.
In the sprawling complex of nearly five acres, there are 113 workers, of which ten are women mechanics. They service buses from seven bus depots from Kanpur, Kanpur Dehat, Unnao and Fatehpur of the state road transport department.
“It is only in Kanpur that there are so many women mechanics working in the state bus depot,” Tularam Varma, manager at the service station, told Gaon Connection. “There are 10 women working here at the moment in the production department where they are learning to make chassis, engine, compressors, clutchplates, and more,” he added.
These 10 women were trained under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) in different departments of the transport corporation, said Varma. This programme is a skill development initiative of the Government of India launched in 2015 for recognition and standardisation of skills.
“In our workshop these women are working shoulder to shoulder with the men, in a job that has traditionally been considered a man’s domain,” the service manager said with pride. “The women earn Rs 6,500 a month and their salaries will soon be hiked to Rs 7,500 a month,” he added.
The workers at the service station have the responsibility of keeping the buses in working order, which in turn leads to the safety of the passengers. In Kanpur alone, there are up to 18,000 passengers a day who travel in the roadways buses, Varma pointed out.
Gaon Connection spent a day at the service station in Kanpur, located about 95 kilometres from the state capital Lucknow, and watched how adept these ten women mechanics were at their work.
Each of these women, some of whom are only 19-20 years old, confidently wielded wrenches, and other tools of the workshop. They shared stories of what made them take up the unusual job of working at the state road transport’s service station.
Kanchan Gautam belongs to Kanpur and is 19 years old. She lost her father early in life and is the oldest of three siblings.
“I trained for one and a half years under the skill development scheme before I began work at this depot,” Gautam told Gaon Connection as she tightened the nuts of the tyre of a bus. Along with the job, she is also completing her final year of B.Sc.
“I had to take this opportunity of getting trained and getting this job to feed my family,” she the young woman.
Rani is also 19 years old and joined work last year. She is from Chaubepur and is in the final year of her bachelors degree. She said that she was working to support her father.
“My father works at a private job, and my salary goes a long way in supplementing his income and supporting my family of six. I enjoy my job and being a woman has not been a matter of any concern to anyone in my workspace,” she said.
Kirti Pal is only a year older than Kanchan Gautam and Rani. The 20 year old lives in Kidwai Nagar, about six kilometres from the workshop. She lives with her parents and three other siblings. Her father is at a private job.
Pal was trained under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana and has been working at the service centre the past two months.
“No work is too difficult or too small for me. And, I am not going to sit at home worrying about what people will say. My work and skill will speak for me,” she told Gaon Connection.
Not too far from where Pal was working, 25-year old Purti Gautam was busy at the clutch & pressure department. She hails from Maswanpur and she has completed her bachelors.
“I trained as a mechanic under Kaushal Vikas Yojana, during the corona lockdown. I have been working here for nearly a year and half,” she said.
On being asked if she finds it intimidating working surrounded by men and fixing buses, she smiled and said: “In the beginning I was a bit hesitant working in a predominantly male environment, but now we are like one big family.”
Jyoti Jaiswal is 26 years old and has been working at the bus depot for a year and a half. From Gwaltoli, she said she was initially a little intimidated by the thought of working amongst so many men and many people expressed doubts about her decision to work here.
“But here I am today. I need no one’s approval or permission to work here and I am as capable at my work as any of my male colleagues,” Jyoti told Gaon Connection.
Rani Srivastava is also 26 years old and is from Maswanpur. She has been working at the workshop for about two years and is contributing to the welfare of her family of parents, two brothers and a widowed older sister with two children.
On being asked how society perceives women mechanic like her, she said: “Oh! I got a lot of snide remarks. People said I would not be able to handle the tools and do a man’s job. There are women in the Air Force, our president is a woman, there are women politicians… why can’t I be a mechanic,” she demanded to know.
Kanchan learnt about Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana from a newspaper and enrolled for the training. The 28-year-old resident of Maswanpur has been working at the service station for two years and is currently in the clutch and pressure department.
“I come from a family of 15 and I had to hear a lot of criticism about my decision to work here. ‘That is a man’s world…what will you do there?’ was a constant refrain. But now, people admire me for the fact that I work in the roadways department,” she said.
Sony Gautam also lives in Maswanpur. The 30 year old is a mother of three daughters and her husband works in the marketing department of a private company.
“I too trained under Kaushal Vikas Yojana and started working about two years ago,” she said. “While the salary is insufficient, it does help me contribute towards my children’s education and support my husband a little. But I have no complaints about the work environment here and everyone is extremely helpful,” she said.
A few yards away from Sony Gautam, sat Roma who was busy filing records in an official register. The 30 year old is from Gwaltoli in Kanpur, and it was her husband who told her about the Skill Development Scheme.
“I have been working here for a while and it is something I enjoy doing,” she said.
Anchal Mishra is a mother of two kids and has been working at the workshop for the past two years. She lives in Saket Nagar and her husband works at a private company.
She is at the workshop from eight in the morning till five in the evening. Her elder daughter studies in class 9 and her son is seven years old. She said that her husband and daughter help her with household chores so that she can focus on her job as a mechanic.
“I wanted to be a driver but I could not because of my height. So I trained under the skill development scheme to be a mechanic. The salary could be better, but at least it helps a little. And, I face no problems at all here,” she said.