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HomeFact CheckViralViral Photo Of A Woman Coolie Wrongly Claimed To Be Of India’s...

Viral Photo Of A Woman Coolie Wrongly Claimed To Be Of India’s First Female Porter

A viral social media post of a female porter, otherwise a traditionally male-dominated profession, has captured the attention of social media users who have been sharing her photographs admiring her hard work and dedication.

Photographs of a woman dressed in the quintessential red shirt worn by coolies or porters on railway stations across the country are being widely shared claiming that she is “Sandhya Marawi – the first lady coolie in India”

The post has been viral across social media platforms, with thousands of shares on Twitter and lakhs of views on YouTube.

Most of the posts carrying these images claim that this lady lost her husband in 2016 and became a coolie to be able to provide for her three children. The posts further claim that she has to travel 45 km daily to reach Katni Railway station where she works as a porter.

Newschecker’s investigation into her background and the authenticity of the photographs revealed that this woman is indeed Sandhya Marawi and her story has been widely covered since 2017 by multiple news portals including Dainik Bhaskar, Anandabazar Patrika, Shethepeople

A video on Youtube uploaded by user A2 Motivation {Arvind Arora} on September 12, claiming Marawi to be the 1st Indian female coolie has been viewed over a million times and has received one lakh forty-six thousand likes. 

Screenshot of YouTube video on Sandhya Marawi

While her story is being shared by social media users currently, similar posts with the same claims have been trending from time to time over the last few years.


A reverse image search of the photo in the post showed multiple results from news and social media portals and one of those was from the official handle of the Ministry Of Railways.

 In a tweet posted on 4th March 2020, the ministry shared photos of three women porters with the text, “Working for Indian Railways, these lady coolies have proved that they are second to none !! We salute them !!”  One of the three photos matches the photo shared in the posts on Sandhya Marawi.

Speaking with Dainik Bhaskar in 2017, Marawi had confirmed that she started working as a porter after she lost her husband in 2016.

Screenshot of the Indian Railways’ tweet

A keyword search for ‘first woman coolie’ on Google, showed results of Sandhya Marawi and another women porter -Manju Devi- as India’s first women porters.

Our research on Manju Devi showed multiple results from news portals including a feature video from the Thomson Reuters Foundation -a charitable arm of the news agency Thomson Reuters. News reports from NDTV and Hindu published in 2013 also detail the life of Manju Devi as a female porter.

Screenshot of the Reuters feature video on YouTube

The video from Reuters published in 2013, captures the life of Devi as a women porter in a profession traditionally considered a male bastion. The 4 minute 44-second long video shows her life and work as a porter in the Jaipur Railway Junction.

In the video, Devi says, “I came to Jaipur station to work as a porter. There are 200 porters at Jaipur train station, among the 200 porters I am the only woman.” Devi’s photo is one of the three photos which the railway ministry used in its tweet. 

Screenshot of the Indian Railways’ tweet


Though Marawi works as a porter and has been recognized in the railway minister’s tweet, she is not the first woman porter in the country. Newschecker’s investigation revealed that Marawi only became a porter after 2016. Manju Devi was already working as a porter in 2013 as per a Reuters report. 

Result: Misleading

Our Sources

Tweet by the ministry of Railways:

Feature video by the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Report on Sandhya Marawi in Dainik Bhaskar

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