Mirza Salma Baig is India’s first woman to man the Railway crossing. She is stationed at Malhore Railway Crossing, one of the busiest intersections of railway and road traffic, located a few kilometers from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.
Salma Baig, 29, a mother of a toddler, has been working at this crossing for the past 10 years.
Seeing a hijab-clad woman turn a heavy wheel to shut the gate when the train is about to arrive at that point and then open it for pedestrians and other road traffic, the onlookers often stop to take selfies with her.
People show respect to Salma Baig for her job. Seeing her for the first time, many people stop to just look at how she works.
Mirza Salma Baig was appointed as the country's first Gate Woman in 2013 at the age of 19. She hails from Lucknow, Uttar pradesh.
Malhore crossing is a busy intersection between railway track and the city road and it’s challenging to control and direct the traffic. She has to frequently close the gate for the vehicular traffic as many trains cross this point all through the day. Salma turns a heavy wheel with a lever to close the gate and then unwinds it to open it.
The gates open as soon as the train passes. Salma says that while closing and opening the gate, she has to take care not to hurt anyone. She stands with a red and green flag in hand until the train has crossed the gate.
Interestingly, many people had questioned Salma’s appointment in 2013 as the newspaper reports of 2013 suggest.
Mirza Salma Baig opening the railway gate
The railway authorities had to clarify that this job was always open to women but not many serious contenders for this job had ever applied.
Salma’s father Mirza Salim Baig was also a gateman at the Railway crossing. Due to hearing impairment and other ailments, he had to take voluntary retirement much earlier than it was due. Salma's mother had suffered a stroke and after father’s retirement, there was no bread winner in the family.
At this stage the Indian Railways offered Salma a jobSalma quit her studies and accepted it. Her relatives were angry but she chose what was best for her and the family under the given circumstances.
She credits her parents for her success.
Salma is proud of her 10-year career and smiles when asked about the snide comments made by many when she first joined.
When she started working at the crossing, the staff told her that being a girl she would not be able to open the crossing gate. They told her that a train passes this crossing every one minute and many predicted she would leave the job in four days. Salma worked hard and never gave up.
She has been standing here for the last 10 years. Salma says, everyone in the staff has become her supporter.”
She performs her 12-hour long duty with full responsibility and competence. Salma says that girls should have the same freedom as housewives.