Agra girls defy stereotype, drive tractors

The roaring sound of the engine and the smoke coming out of its exhaust add to the tractor's machismo. But that does not mean girls can't drive it.

Ask the 16 girls in Agra who surpised everyone, including the Taj city's woman mayor, by driving the huge roaring tractors in style and even ploughing the field with amazing ease.

The girls were from Manoharpur village in Agra's outskirts and the scene was the two-day driving camp conducted by auto makers Mahindra and Mahindra under their "Nai disha Nai soch" (New direction, New thought) programme.

Agra's representative in parliament Ram Shankar Katheria had opened the camp Jan 12.
The girls took Agra mayor Anjula Singh Mahaur for a drive in the tractor. The mayor did not hide her fascination and could learn a few driving tricks herself.

Company technicians Sohan Singh and Hitesh Dhingra shared with the camp participants some useful tips on tractor driving.

Camp in-charge Dileep Singh said they are planning similar camps in more Agra villages to train girls.

"It not only opened immense potential but instilled a great degree of self-confidence in our girls," commented rural activist Ravi Singh.

Poonam, Sushila, Bharti, Lakshmi, Mamata, Neeru, Gayatri and others are now ready even to help their parents and brothers on the field.

"These machines will not lie idle for want of competent drivers," promised an excited Sangeeta, one of the camp participants.

Priti, a Class 8 student, confessed that the first time she sat on the tractor driver's seat she was pale with fear.

"But my parents were supportive. My father used to drop me on his mobike at the camp," Priti told IANS.

All the girls have bicycles and are now prepared to change the profile of women in Agra's conservative social milieu, said Anshu Pareek, a commentator on women's issues.

"All the girls were so happy and excited. Their transformation was such a joy to watch," Pareek told IANS.

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