Five Women on Bikes Talk Chai, Hyderabad and Telangana Elections

Video editor: Kunal Mehra, Deepthi Ramdas
Smitha TK

The youngest state of Telangana will soon be standing in queues to cast their votes for the first time since the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. While the race for the top seat is getting fiercer by the day, people are busy reevaluating the performance of the government to take a call.

When we spoke to the people of Hyderabad, some said that K Chandrashekar Rao’s welfare schemes will tilt the balance in his favour. But many others felt the combined strength of Prajakutami comprising TDP-Congress-TJS-CPI could make this a difficult ball game.

While we spoke to a cross-section of people on the road, we didn’t find many women to speak to us on camera about their expectations of the elections. So I made a few calls, and hours later, I was on a Royal Enfield along with four badass biker women exploring Hyderabad and talking policy and polls.

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These amazing women are part of Bikerni Hyderabad, which is a group of women who want to empower other ladies with motorbikes and encourage them to go on adventures they would have never thought to go on before.

Introducing the Bikernis:

Jai Bharathi

Jai Bharathi – Captain and anchor

The woman who started it all in Hyderabad. Bharathi is a freelance architect and teaches women to ride motorbikes. She has been riding for the past 15 years and is eternally engaged to her bike. She even led a four-woman expedition across 11 Indian states and five south-East Asian countries.

Jai says that the city is very safe for women, especially in the last 5 years, and that’s a big win-win for the government. However, more impetus to a holistic development of Hyderabad, keeping in mind the population and pollution levels, is the need of the hour.

Vyshali Sagar

Vyshali Sagar – Bold and brilliant

One can’t really associate a particular tag with this character. A consultant and biker, she has an extremely detailed well-researched answer on anything from ghee-idlies to startups, industrial investment and climate change. Quiz her on policies, infrastructure projects, scale-ups and global warming, she will school you.

She strongly believes Hyderabad is ahead of Bengaluru in the race for advanced industrial investment and startups and that has prominently marked the city on the map. However, the government needs to look beyond the capital and ensure every town and village has access to all the basic needs.

Susan Shanti

Susan Shanti – Fiery and fiesty

A Kannadiga who can speak at least 5 languages, Shanti is a boss woman. During her initial days at her work as a constable, she was discouraged from driving the bike. But she realised her colleagues weren’t worth listening to and with a little backing from Jai Bharathi, Shanti was once again vrooming around on her majestic black beast. Her two little kids are her biggest cheerleaders and she is crushing stereotypes all the way.

Shanti says that being in the police force, she has been part of the system ensuring safety for women and keeping crime rates at a low. While the statistics might not reveal significant decrease in the rate, the number of cases being reported has gone up now. Shanti says that it is the measures taken by the state to appoint special surveillance that has given people the confidence to come forward and complain against their harasser.

Shilpa Sivakumaran

Sugar, spice and everything nice.

Shilpa is a biker, architect, mother and winning the life game with her charming smile. She recently made her entry into the world of mean machines. While she becomes her own person when on the bike, she cannot stop herself from wondering what a landscape we have robbed ourselves of, by cutting down trees and breaking mountains.

Shilpa believes the rate at which development is happening in Telangana is phenomenal but we really need to keep a check on the green cover which is vanishing and being replaced by a concrete jungle.

Also Read: Watch These Gutsy ‘Bikernis’ Rule the Streets of Delhi

While speaking to these women, we figured that two of their biggest concerns were safety and job opportunities. The women in Hyderabad say that in the last 4 years the city has become safer.

Jai Bharathi recounted the May 2017 International Female Ride Day, “We called all the bikernis and riders from across the country and hosted an event in Hyderabad. We rode in the middle of the night. 60 women on their mean machines.  We went to the old city, Charminar. We rode to showcase how Hyderabad is safe for women even during such hours. By the time we reached Charminar, it was 12:30-12:45 am and then everyone went home on their own. And it was safe! What else do I need to prove my point?”

"“Yes, earlier women were not coming out of their homes and were often worried that something bad would happen. Now there is an increase in number of cases that are being reported.”" - Susan Shanti, Biker/Constable

Also Read: The Bikerni: All-Women Bikers Who Grind Stereotypes Into the Dust

And they attribute this development to the introduction of She-teams. In order to ensure security in public places and put an end to street harassment, the KCR government introduced these patrolling agents.

The teams – stationed at bus-stops, markets and colleges – do constant surveillance. When they notice a man harassing a woman, they record the action using pen or bag cameras to file as evidence. The culprit is then taken to the station, warned, sometimes even counselled along with his family members, and punished.

Also Read: On World Bicycle Day, Pro Biker Jens Voigt Has 5 Tips for Starters

The next agenda was employment opportunity. The TRS government has been quite loudly pushing Hyderabad as an investment option and easing the process of doing business.

T-Hub, India's largest incubator for startups, was introduced by IT minister K T Rama Rao. When we asked consultants if they think Hyderabad has surpassed Bengaluru already in this race, we saw a lot of hopeful nods.

“It is the reason why Ivanka turned up. A lot of leadership forums are happening. A lot of startups are cropping up. The infrastructure, government support, policies friendly to startups are all there,” said consultant Vyshali Sagar.

"“Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft all of them either have or are in the process of headquartering here in Hyderabad. I think that is a real game-changer for a state like Telangana.”" - Vyshali Sagar, Biker/Consultant

While the youngsters gave a big thumbs-up to four years of KCR government in Hyderabad, they believed that there is a lot more work that needs to be done in small towns and the villages.

Clean drinking water for all, proper sanitation, greening the state, more efficient garbage management systems, farm loan waivers, irrigation facilities, 24x7 power supply and jobs for all – to name a few.

If you are from Telangana, what do you think should be the manifesto for your state’s new government?

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