Meet the women in Maharashtra's first gender-integrated fire brigade
For 30-year-old Sunita Baban Patil, her navy-blue sari holds a special place. One of three women assistant station officers at the headquarters in Byculla, she is among the first women to be a part of the Mumbai Fire Brigade in its 130-year history.
Though Sunita, Rohini Avhad, and Chhaya Pawar belong to the first generation of a gender-integrated fire brigade — the only one in Maharashtra so far — the Mumbai Fire Brigade will hire an additional 60–70 firewomen in the next one year, says a Livemint article.
To qualify for the job, apart from meeting other requirements, these women had to run a gruelling 200m track, and then make a 19ft-high leap from a drill tower.
For the rest of your career, you will be putting others’ lives before your own, “aakhri dam tak,” as the instructor puts it: until your last breath, adds the Livemint report
Every year during Diwali, the Byculla fire station is alert, ever prepared to handle an emergency. While the country celebrates with lanterns and diyas, the workforce at Byculla is focused on just one thing — averting fire mishaps.
Speaking about initiating a gender-integrated fire brigade, Prabhat Rahangdale, Chief Fire Officer, Mumbai Fire Brigade, says,
Not offering equal opportunities — that would be like treating my daughter differently from my son. How can I do that?
One of the benefits of having firewomen is that rescuing women, who can sometimes be hesitant about taking help from men, becomes much easier in dire conditions.
The Mumbai fire brigade has recruited 774 candidates in this one year alone, which is a big jump from the previous years. Though there are talks of having all-women fire brigades, the initiative is yet to see the light of day.