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Stepping up the gas for empowerment

- Fuel station a source of livelihood for 40 needy women, students

Petrol pumps being manned by women is no longer a novelty in Ranchi.

But what makes Shambhavi Fuel Centre at Sail Township stand apart is that all its 40 women employees are needy homemakers and students, who have become financially independent and are seeing better days ever since they started working at the fuel station.

The owner, also a woman, Poonam Tigga (30), started the petrol pump three years ago with just two women. The aim was simple empower the fair sex. Now, a source of livelihood for 40 people a majority of them being tribals the fuel station has also become a second home for the women, who stick together like a family.

During a visit to the Shambhavi Fuel Centre on Wednesday, The Telegraph found the women and girls, dressed in blue and black salwar suits, deftly handling customers and filling fuel tanks of two- and four-wheeler with ease.

A month back, I came to work here after taking proper training and learning nitty-gritty of running a petrol pump. I am thankful to this job as I am able to support my two school-going children with my earnings, Dayamani Lakra, a resident of Birsa Chowk, said between serving customers.

I was really surprised to learn from my neighbour that petrol pumps also employ women. I approached Madamji (Tigga) and requested her to give me an opportunity to work here. Its been almost two years now and I am never been so happy. I am the only earning member in my family as my husband, who is not well, stays in the house. My three children go to school, said Sunita Devi, who also belongs to Dhurwa.

If Dayamani and Sunita need money to run their families, Meera Kumari, a second-year student of Bundu College, chose to work at the pump to fund her education.

I use the money I get to purchase books and also help my mother run the house, said the Loharkocha girl.

Another attendant, Anima Kumari, is happy that she is able to save Rs 1,500 from her earnings every month.

I draw a salary of Rs 3,500 per month. After I joined this profession six months ago, I started having good food and bought a cellphone, she smiled.

Owner Tigga has ensured that her employees have a normal family life and has fixed eight-hour work shifts till 7pm, after which four men take over. She also makes arrangements for their accommodation if necessary.

We are like a small family and I try my best to provide all a homely environment at the workplace. In fact, Anima stays with me, Tigga added.

A thought has been spared for vehicle owners too, who can enjoy all facilities like music system, toilets and snack counters at the fuel station.

We have to be on toes all day as the petrol pump is located on a very busy stretch and customers keep pouring in. But we never feel stressed. The music helps us relax and also peps up the mood. People also enjoy coming here because of the facilities we offer, said another worker, Sharmila Devi.

So, whats the peoples take on an all-women petrol pump?

We treat women on a par with men. Koi bhi petrol bhare, we are not bothered, said Manish Kumar, a two-wheeler rider.