Brave Railway women on duty, on insecure night track

New Delhi / Secunderabad / Chennai:  At a time when women are extra cautious about going out even in broad daylight, railway track women walk along railway tracks in pitch-darkness to earn a living.

Railway officials, who cite statistics to show a rise in the number of the women applying for railway the track/gang women post, say many of the applicants are unaware that night patrolling is an integral part of the job of track men and women.

“While applying for the job, I was not aware of the nature of the job. Anyway it is part of the job and I know that I have to do it,” says a track woman, who is a chemistry graduate.

Normally, track women choose day shifts and some prefer to be railway gatekeepers. One gang may have a maximum of 10 members, depending on the requirement of an area, and has to cover up to six-and-a-half kilometres.

And the distance to be covered on foot by a track man/woman is sometimes three to three-and-a-half kilometres.

“Many track women request to stay away from the 10 pm-4 am shift, citing safety issues. But during crucial hours, all members of a gang have to do night patrolling,” said a railways official.

Night patrolling is a must during heavy rains as there are chances of landslides, and trees may get uprooted on to railway tracks, affecting train traffic and raising questions on passengers’ safety.

Track men/women are recruited under the Group D category of jobs which have the 10th standard as the minimum qualification. Like in other government jobs, many in this profession are overqualified, some of them postgraduates.

Employee unions have objected to track women being assigned the night-patrolling duty. “Even if changing the shifts is one way of ensuring track women’s safety,it is not a permanent solution. While announcing the vacancies, the nature of the job must be detailed. We are going to request the Railway Board to take action in this regard,” said an office-bearer of the Southern Railway Mazdoor Union.