NTPC Pakri Barwadih Coal Mining Project’s ‘Mahilashakti’, women drivers break cultural barriers

NTPC PakriBarwadih Coal Mining Project is the first mine in India to have women dumper operators for operating large size dump trucks. In Jharkhand’s coal belt these 22-women dumper operators have broken the barrier of patriarchal society.

Most of these women belong to the Schedule tribe community and were driving pink autos in Ranchi at the railway station.

Their journey from rickshaw driver to dumper operators passed through rigorous training at Thriveni training facility at TRC, Jamshedpur, acquiring heavy vehicle license, skill improvement by Simulator training, SCMS certification, Vocational training at mines and finally to regular job on large trucks and They are getting a salary of Rs. 27000/- month (HPC highly skilled wages).

This has brought not only a significant jump in their quality of life but also a paradigm shift in their mentality which has boosted their confidence. They are now eying to prepare their children for roles that they were never thinking about earlier.

Monika Devi (35) one of the dumper operators at PBCMP’s coal mine says, “I feel independent and strong when I drive these vehicles which we women only operate. Now I’m able to send my children for studies in the best school in the city.”

Whereas, Reena Devi (29) the youngest dumper operator says, “For me, it is like a dream. I never thought of driving this big capacity of trucks and now I don’t feel less to men working around me.”

Pavan Vasantrao Khandwe the mine’s manager and also the Additional General Manager in the mining department of PBCMP says, “I feel proud when I say I work with these Mahilashakti.

“Women today are no less than anyone. All they need is opportunity and guidance. She is handling her responsibilities properly at home and also walking shoulder to shoulder with men and creating new dimensions every day. Along with financial help to the family, she is also setting an example of new employment opportunities for women in such fields which were not earlier considered appropriate for women”, he added.

Executive Director of the project M.V.R. Reddy says, “Today, women rule almost in every field of life and work at par with men. We cannot deny, that be it at home or work, they do it all with so much zeal and ace in each one of it in their way.”

The women are also given overall fitness and well-being training, including yoga, self-defence and karate, apart from skills like hill driving and night driving. The company is also putting in place safety measures to address concerns around safety, working hours and road rage for female truckers and drivers.

Adequate security arrangements, separate rest rooms, separate washrooms, CCTV cameras, creche room, training for men regarding the dignity of women, etc have been ensured at the workplace to make them feel safe. NTPC is planning to deploy women in all 3 shifts. Sooner, their skill will be upgraded for the operation of 240 MT dumpers.

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