The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Andhra women join track race

Hyderabad, Oct. 27: Women in Andhra Pradesh have stormed another male bastion by filing tenders for a railway contract.

On Thursday, 15 women of Guntakal town braved assaults, spurned bribes and survived a last-minute hitch by filing the tenders for 15 track projects worth Rs 5.6 lakh each.

R. Murthy, the South Central Railway superintendent of Guntakal division, said the women belonged to the Arunodaya Mahila Mandali, a non-government women’s self-help group in the town about 400 km from here.

The path to the milestone, however, was bumpy. Railway contractors, who had long eyed the contracts, first attacked the men accompanying the women to the railway office and sent them packing. When the women returned, they were lured with “goodwill money”.

When that failed, the designated tender officer, assistant superintendent Munilingappa, was kidnapped.

Murthy, however, stepped in and managed to get the official to report for duty an hour before filing of tenders was to close.

The women and their supporters from the Mandali kept a vigil on the office and finally sneaked in to finish the formalities in Murthy’s presence.

The risky attempt to breach male territory, however, was not the first in the state. The Singareni Collieries had last month hired women to work in the opencast mines as assistants in the coal-filling and transport sections.

More women were employed in the Godavari Khani mines at Ramagundam, a unit of Singareni Collieries.

IT companies in Hyderabad have shown a marked preference for housewives over young graduates to man their call-centres and business process outsourcing operations.

As many as 5,350 of them are working as assistants in 325 call-centres here. “It is not just the money, but the healthy environment and the easy working hours that attract us to such vocations,” said 28-year-old P. Sudha, mother of a six-year-old girl.

Women account for nearly 52 per cent of the state’s total workforce of 1.6 crore. As many as 59 per cent of the women of Andhra Pradesh are literate, compared with 43 per cent of all men.

The state government has taken the lead in getting women to head families by holding out economic benefits to the poor and the poorest (below poverty level or BPL) families.

Of the state’s population of 7.8 crore, 18 per cent comprise BPL families and another 22 per cent poor families.

Officials of the state’s women and child welfare department contend that women account for 50.2 per cent of the total voters, with 38.2 per cent of them living in rural areas.

Almost 70 per cent of 1.1 crore new voters of age 18-plus are also women, they say.

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