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Big picture: Women man this district

chandigarh Updated: Apr 28, 2012 17:08 IST
Usmeet Kaur
nawanshahr

In 2006, Nawanshahr district -renamed as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district - had a horrifying tale to tell. It had such skewed male-female sex ratio that in one of its villages, Dhanduha, reportedly, no girl was born in six months! The prosperous district in the Doaba belt has also seen countless abandoned NRI brides; not to mention the notoriety women drug peddlers of the Sansi tribe has brought to it.



But today, the district is synonymous with women power, and not just statistically.



Punjab's most women-empowered district has Shruti Singh as its deputy commissioner, Neeru Katyal Gupta as the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Nawanshahr and Anupam Kaler as the SDM of Balachaur. At the helm of education affairs is Darshan Kaur and Neha Shori is the district drug inspector.



The list of women officers runs long and strong with naib tehsildar Sukhbir Kaur, assistant district attorney Mandeep Kaur Johal, executive engineer of panchayati raj Rita Aggarwal, child development project officers (CDPOs) Salochna Devi and Rita Rani, district language officer Birpal Kaur, district health and family welfare officer Surinder Kaur Gangarr, district food and civil supply officer Rashu Mahajan, superintendent grade-1 in the DC's office Meena Rani.

Last but not least is the local MLA, Guriqbal Kaur Babli.


Darshan Kaur, 57, District Education Officer (DEO)

Darshan Kaur, who will retire in April 2013, started working in 1979 as a mistress, she was promoted to the rank of head mistress in Kapurthala district in 1989, in 1997 she was posted as deputy DEO and she served in Hoshiarpur and Amritsar.



From 2007 onwards, she has served as DEO in Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Nawanshahr, Chandigarh and back to Nawanshahr. "My journey has been quite satisfying. Work and more work keeps me going, as I hate to be idle.

Throughout my tenure, I have believed in one thing: that I am no less than male counterparts, that I have all the qualities of a good officer irrespective of gender. Secondly, I have never feared male domination rather I feel it's an era where women dominate," says Darshan, who feels that the education system needs to be cleaned up and that's only possible if we work in the system with dedication. "I have focused on upgrading government and private schools," says Darshan, a spinster, who adds, "Marriage was never on cards, I was too occupied with my career and family."


Shruti Singh, 29, Deputy commissioner


"Nawanshahr has become an example for rest of the nation when it comes to curbing female foeticide. Today, with the help of Upkar Coordination Society (NGO), district administration and Punjab government, the male-female ratio speaks for itself. In 2011, the ratio was 898 girls as against 1000 boys, and today, it's 981 already. It's a proud moment," says this 2004-batch IAS officer who was posted as SDM Chamkaur Sahib in 2007, then as ADC Bathinda before her current posting.



"Honestly, I have not faced male chauvinism till date. Rather I feel it's easier for a woman officer, as men follow instructions immediately because they don't like being scolded by a woman," says Shruti on a lighter note, adding, "Action speaks louder than words. And it becomes easier for a woman to achieve her goals if the spouse is supportive.

My husband, an IPS officer posted as DCP Ludhiana, is taking care of our children in Ludhiana."



Born and brought up in New Delhi, she says. "It feels good when I visit schools and colleges and girls look up to me; deep down it urges me set an example for them. I tell girls to stand up for their rights and speak against injustice."


Neeru Katyal Gupta, 36 (SDM, Nawanshahr) and Anupam Kaler, 35 (SDM, Balachaur)

Talking about the misconception about women not being good administrators, both the SDMs say, "We disagree; women are not only more sincere but also connect well with people. The other quality that sets women apart from men in power is their positive attitude.



"Interestingly, both Neeru and Anupam, from 2004 batch, were lecturers in psychology and political science respectively before clearing the IAS exam. They say, "Though men tend to doubt a woman's capability, we are 110% confident about our performance." Sharing in lighter vein how they are addressed as 'sir', they agree that Nawanshahr has created history with an almost all-women team. On balancing home and duty, the married women agree that sometimes role conflicts emerge, but with time they have learnt to strike a balance.



Neeru says, "Women should learn to break mindsets, it's foolish to depend on men to change their attitudes; we have to make a difference." Anupam adds,



"Empowerment will come by educating women and them educating their children further. Female foeticide can be curbed to a great extent if a woman herself refuses to kill her child."


Dhanpreet Kaur, 32, SSP

Born and brought up in Patiala, Dhanpreet Kaur, 2006-batch IPS officer, joined as ASP under-training in Ludhiana in 2008. From 2009-2011, she was posted as ACP ADCP-1 in Amritsar. While in 2010 she was on maternal leave, in 2012 she was posted as SSP Barnala and a few days back she was posted as SSP Nawanshahr.



Talking about her priorities, she says, "Improving the functioning of women's cell and sensitising the police force towards issues concerning women is on my agenda. I feel that I have to lead by example."



On women's entry in male bastion, she says, "Gender stereotypes are passé. Now women police officers are trained so extensively that if a law and order situation arises and I have to be on road at 2 am, I wouldn't hesitate or feel odd. I feel a woman, who multi-tasks and juggles the roles of wife, sister, daughter, mother, can empathise with people and their problems. I would say women's presence would only strengthen democracy."

Sukhbir Kaur, 43, Naib

Sukhbir Kaur with her mother-in-law's support appeared for Service Selection Board examination, for which she prepared after marriage. "I don't agree with people who say that a woman cannot study after marriage; it's all about how supportive your family is and I was lucky on that front," says Sukhbir who, since August 2011, has been posted as naib tehsildar in the district.



"I get up at 4.30 am to drop my son and daughter for their respective sports practice sessions, then I bring them back and pack their tiffins before dropping them to school and reporting on duty. Through the day I manage revenue-related work, registrations and do a lot of public dealing," Sukhbir shares a slice of her regular day.



"Being a woman, I feel, I can relate with women and make them comfortable. The other day an old woman walked into my office with absolutely no idea about documentation; I happily guided her, like a daughter would. I try my best to balance life and work, but sometimes my children miss me as my duty hours keep them waiting," she says.