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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Bastar’s lone woman contractor gets job done in Maoist hotbed

Tongpal, a semi-urban village in Sukma district, is on the edge of Darbha forest, a known stomping ground of Maoists.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2018 17:57 IST
Ritesh Mishra
Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, Tongpal (Sukma)
Ruby Bhadauria is the lone woman contractor in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar region.
Ruby Bhadauria is the lone woman contractor in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar region.(Ritesh Mishra/Hindustan Times)

Ruby Bhadauria, the lone woman contractor in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar region, is unique, but she does not see it that way.

Work takes Bhadauria through dense jungles and remote locations where even the security forces tread with caution. Security forces have killed 823 Maoists and lost 1,127 colleagues in gun battles across Bastar between 2011 and 2017. Over 1,580 civilians were also killed in the same period in the region.

But Maoists do not faze Bhadauria. She moves around without security in her car, ensuring the construction of panchayat buildings, small roads and even a stadium under various government contracts she bids for.

“Getting the job done is what counts, not your gender,” the 27-year-old said.

Bhadauria said Maoists, who routinely damage roads in Bastar with explosions to prevent security forces from reaching their hotbeds, did threaten her once.

“When I was building this stadium, I got a call. He asked for money and warned if I didn’t pay, he would set my equipment on fire ... Maine keh diya jo karna hai kar lo, paisa nahin dungi (I told him ‘you can do what you want to, I won’t pay’),” she laughed.

“My forefathers came from Etawah (Uttar Pradesh) to Bastar and settled in Tongpal. For me, the jungle is like my home. People in our forests know me. Mingling with them is not difficult,” the commerce graduate added.

Tongpal, a semi-urban village in Sukma district, is on the edge of Darbha forest, a known stomping ground of Maoists.

Knowing Gondi and Halbi dialects and the tribal culture, rituals and slangs help, Bhadauria, who can also speak Hindi, English, Bangla and Tamil, said.

She said it was a “childhood dream” to construct buildings and roads when asked what drew her to a so-called male profession.

“I wanted to become a civil engineer, but could not. After graduation, I worked in banks and small offices, but three years ago, I decided to quit. I registered as a contractor and started bidding for government work.”

Bhadauria credits her father, a transporter, for giving her the freedom to chart her course.

“He never told me I could not do something because I was a girl,” she said as she sat near the stadium she built in Takapal village.

She has people working for on her projects in Sukma and adjoining Jagdalpur and Dantewada districts. She was at ease, chatting with locals, some of whom work with her.

“People who work with me are my family. They are mostly tribal women and I owe them for their trust in me. I visit their homes and gorge on traditional food,” said Bhadauria.

And she is ambitious.

“My annual turnover has gone past Rs 50 lakh. I intend to increase it manifold by going after bigger projects.”

Seasoned contractors in Bastar acknowledge Bhadauria’s go-getter attitude. Former Salwa Judum member-turned-contractor Pramod Rathore, who is building the strategically important Injiram-Bheji and Dornapal-Jagargonda roads across south Sukma, said they never think of her as a woman.

“She is like any other contractor in Bastar. Every contractor faces certain hurdles in Bastar and she has faced them,” Rathore said.

DM Awasthi, Chhattisgarh’s special director general of police (anti-Naxal operations) and the managing director of the state’s police housing corporation, also praised Bhadauria for her courage and quality of work.

“She is a courageous woman. She has some important and difficult tenders of my department,” said Awasthi.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 17:56 IST

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