New Delhi: Indian Railways is likely to close doors on women for some jobs in the future, citing tough and unfavourable working conditions for drivers, porters, guards and gangmen (or trackmen who inspect tracks). It has written to the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), asking them to allow it to hire only men for these posts.
In the letter, the Railways said it has received several complaints of unsafe and tough working conditions from women employed in these posts. “The former chairman of the Railway Board received a representation from women staff of Indian Railways, following which a letter has been written to DOPT suggesting that women be excluded from a few jobs," SN Agrawal, member (staff) of the Indian Railways told Hindustan Times.
The safety of women and working conditions are the primary concern. Currently, these posts are open for everyone irrespective of the gender,” Agrawal added.
Of the 1.3 million employees of Indian Railways, only 2 to 3 per cent are women and most of them are employed in desk jobs. Drivers, guards and trackmen and the called running staff are supposed to be available at all times.
“Railways cannot discriminate on the basis of gender but the fact is, these jobs are tough irrespective of the gender. The running staff gets additional benefit because of the tough nature of the job. I don’t think DOPT will agree to the Railway’s request,” said Sri Prakash, who retired as member (traffic) of Indian Railways in 2009.
Drivers are called locopilots (there are usually two in a train); guards are stationed in the last coach of the train for signalling purposes; porters are required to lift heavy luggage at stations and trackmen or gangmen are supposed to check the tracks.
A member of the Railways union said the department should focus on providing better facilities to everyone. “Railways does not have the required infrastructure for women and that’s why they want women to not come forward for these jobs. Instead of excluding women, railways should improve the facility for them,” said Sanjay Pandhi, working president of Indian Railways Loco Running Men Organisation.
In an interview with News18 in December, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said that women are not fit for combat roles in the army.
Citing logistical reasons, he said that a woman officer would feel uncomfortable at the frontline and accuse jawans of 'peeping' as she changes clothes. “Our orders are that a lady officer will get a hut in the COB, then there are orders that we have to cocoon her separately. She will say somebody is peeping, so we will have to give a sheet around her,” Rawat had said.