India’s first ‘motor-woman’ lives her dream on the railway tracks


Written by Neha Kulkarni | Mumbai | Updated: March 22, 2017 1:52 am

Mumtaz Kazi joined Railways in 1991. Ganesh Shirsekar

FOR MUMTAZ KAZI (46), the first Indian woman to drive a diesel locomotive for the Indian Railways, driving a rake was a dream come true.

Having grown up hearing stories of what it is to drive a rake from the friends of her father, also a railway employee, becoming one was all the more exciting.

“My father was the trunk superintendent in Churchgate, so our house was frequented by his motor-men friends. They would narrate their experiences of driving rakes in the congested system. This motivated me to become one,” said Kazi.

Kazi joined Railways in 1991 to become an assistant driver for the diesel-run rake for mail trains. In January 2005, she switched to driving in the suburban system. Recalling what it was to apply for the job of a motor-woman at that time, she said the advertisement declared that the job would be “tough” for ladies. “I was doing Diploma in Medical Lab and Technology when the advertisement for hiring motor-men came in. Though the advertisement clearly allowed ladies to apply, it stated that it was hard job for ladies. I took up the challenge because not only did my education fit the criteria, I really wanted to do it,” she said.

A resident of Sion, Kazi works from 7 am to 1 pm. Her only complaint is the absence of a day-off, which has now become a routine. “My shifts are given and I have a daily chart of the number of trains I have to drive. Sometimes, the compulsion to be punctual and having no day-off becomes challenging. Be it my first ride, between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus-Belapur, or now, the dedication with which I drive hasn’t changed,” she said.

Handling the congestion of the suburban system does prove to be a challenge. With a space of three minutes between two trains, retaining punctuality becomes more important. “The congestion of trains now, compared to what it was ten years ago, could prove to be a real challenge. Up on that, when commuters behave irrationally, cross tracks, try to climb over platforms when a train is coming, increases the pressure upon us,” she added.

Having won numerous awards and a mention in the Limca Book of Records for her feat, she said her happiest moment was when she received the ‘Nari Puraskar’ from President Pranab Mukherjee on Women’s Day this year. Along with public appreciation she was happy being acknowledged for her work. “I want to get promoted in the field I work. It is a thrill to ensure the rake driven and controlled by you safely transports passengers,” she added.

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