MEERUT The fitness revolution has taken the country by the storm, with mushrooming gyms in cities drawing both men and women keen to stay in shape.
However, some backwaters are an exception where gymming is limited only to men and women have no access to any exercise centre. Purkazi, a conservative small town on the national highway 58, which connects Delhi to Hardwar and Dehradun and where Muslim population has an edge over Hindus, was one such place till now.
But now Purkazi is poised for a sea change, being the first in the region where the Nagar Panchayat has established an advanced gym exclusively for women, using union government funds released for development.
The Nagar Panchayat, an elected body of representatives responsible for carrying out developmental activities, has turned this small town of 30,000 inhabitants (Muslims 60%) into an experimental ground for innovative initiatives under the leadership of Zaheer Faroqui who was elected chairman in December 2017.
The latest initiative was setting up an exclusive gym for women in a comparatively conservative town where people largely bank on small trades and farming. Recalling how the idea was opposed when it was proposed in the board meeting of Nagar Panchayat a few months ago, before, Zaheer said, “The then district magistrate Rajeev Sharma supported the idea and gave his consent to go ahead. This encouraged us to transform this dream project into a reality in the past three months.”
Zaheer said it was the only project of its kind in the region where funds released for developmental works were used in setting up a gym for women.
The union government releases money twice to Nagar Panchayats and Purkazi Nagar Panchayat received an instalment of Rs 40 lakh in this account.
Zaheer said that a hall of 30ft X 30ft was built with bathrooms, changing rooms and other facilities and advanced equipment of Rs 25 lakh purchased from a Gurgaon-based company. The interior of the gym was also made comfy and attractive.
An advertisement was placed in newspapers for trainers and more than a dozen women had applied for the post from the neighbouring towns of Roorkee in Uttarakhand and Muzaffarnagar. Their interview was scheduled next week, Zaheer said.
Appreciating the work of Zaheer and his team district magistrate of Muzaffarnagar Selva Kumar J said, “We are encouraging other Nagar Panchayats of the district to follow Purkazi because such initiatives help in keeping women fit.”
Sangeeta Goel, a resident of the town, is excited at the prospect of joining the gym with her two daughters Shivani Goel, 25 and Aditi Goel, 22. She said, “This was much needed because the town has only men’s gyms and women had no place to go to for exercise.” She said over 100 women of her circle were eagerly waiting to join the gym.
Zaheer said that he and his team were trying to take time from the district magistrate for inauguration.
“Everything is ready on our part and we are now waiting for its inauguration,” said Zaheer who also has approached the local MLA for inauguration along with the DM.
Rehana Adeeb, who runs an NGO Astitva to raise issues related to women, said, “Setting up a gym for women in a conservative town like Purkazi was indeed an innovative idea and it will particularly benefit Muslim women who seldom have access to such facilities in a small town.”
She said that Zaheer was popular among his supporters and people because of such innovative ideas and cited his endevour of constructing a ‘pink toilet’ for women in the market and installing a sanitary pad dispenser in it.
“Talking about sanitary pads in public in a small town like Purkazi needs a lot of courage but he dared to set up a dispenser which has been benefitting women,” said Adeeb.
The town has a 98-year-old Ramleela Committee which felicitated Zaheer Faroqui recently for his support in taking care of cleanliness and other facilities during Ramleela. The committee’s president Manish Goel said, “Our town is known for communal harmony and we felicitated Zaheer who always worked to strengthen it. He was also felicitated by the previous year’s Ramleela Committee which gifted him a ‘Quran’ from the dais of the Ramleela.”
The Purkazi Nagar Panchayat also has taken a significant step in commemorating sacrifices made during the 1857 Uprising. Zaheer said over 400 people of the town were hanged by the British while quelling the uprising. The garden where the freedom fighters were hanged is known as ‘ Suliwala Bagh’ and the Nagar Panchayat has started unfurling the Tricolour inside it on August 15 and January 26. Hundreds of people participate in the function after taking out a march holding tricolours in their hands. “The idea behind it was to remind people about the supreme sacrifice of people fighting against British raj,” said Zaheer.