As an increasing number of women enter the workforce, HT meets three South Delhi residents who have chosen non-traditional professions
It is still a rare sight to see a woman fill up your fuel tank, help you park the car or stop a vehicle for violating traffic norms. Even as men snigger or ignore their authority, these women go about their jobs unfazed. While the number of women joining the service sector, traditionally considered a male domain, has grown, challenges remain. Wage equality is an issue, safety is another. Last month, a woman cop in Mumbai was assaulted by a group of men for pulling up a man who was talking on the phone while driving. Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, said: “The challenge is to upscale the women’s skills to move up in the job ladder. Employers hire women because they have to pay them lesser and are considered less demanding. ”
Chander Kanta, 51, traffic inspector
A traffic inspector (TI) is out in the field from 8am to 10pm. Chander Kanta is one of the few on-field women TI in the 800 personnel-strong Delhi traffic police (southern range). She is posted in RK Puram traffic circle.
At around 9am, at Bhisham Pitamah Marg crossing in Lodhi Colony, she stops a motorist without a helmet, educates him on the subject and issues a challan. “I am mostly on ground all day. I come across all kinds of people; most don’t care about following traffic norms. But when they see a woman in uniform, they suddenly stop and obey. Making rowdy drivers comply with rules is a challenge,” said the cop.
A 1988 batch officer, Chander Kanta said a large part of her tenure was spent handling media at the Police Headquarters at ITO. However, it was a blessing in disguise, when a senior officer encouraged her to work in the field. “At first I was hesitant, but little did I know that I would enjoy being out in the field and managing a staff of over 100. Despite having been an inspector for a long time, it is only now that I feel empowered as a woman,” she said.
After graduating from Kirori Mal College, she was stuck between taking up a teaching job in a government school and the police services. “I wanted to do something different, as at that time most women took to teaching jobs. I chose the latter and was supported by my parents,” she said.
She lives with her architect husband and two sons in Jangpura, who support her new endeavour. Initially, I was OK with the desk job as my children were young. But now they have grown up and I don’t have to worry about home while I am on the field. My sons want me to take up a posting as a station house officer (SHO). They believe a woman in the job can change the dynamics of crime and policing,” she said.
It has been a year and a half in her new role, and she feels there is nothing in the world she cannot do as a woman. “I now take decisions and pass orders. When I go for department meetings I am the only woman in a room full of men, but I feel totally comfortable. I have gained this confidence being out in the field. It was a refreshing change from the past 20 years,” she said.
The new responsibility has inspired Chander Kanta to take steps to smoothen traffic in the area. She introduced pole blockers at a pedestrian crossing in INA which was being misused by motorists for taking wrong U-turns. She has also made attempts to encourage people to take subways instead of cutting through in the middle of the traffic. She regularly monitors traffic volume for introducing more road safety measures.
Vibha singh, 20, petrol pump employee
Working at one of the city’s busy petrol pumps in Moti Bagh would not have been an easy choice for 20-year-old Vibha Singh, had she not been living in the Capital. Singh, who has recently moved to the city from Lucknow and wants to work, but there were not many job options for her back home.
“Being in Delhi and working at a petrol pump is a complete change from living in a two-tier city. There it is still not possible for women to move out of conventional jobs such as teachers, beauticians or taking up tailoring work. I did not want to do any of these. I wanted a job where I can apply my mind and also pursue studies alongside,” said Singh.
She is studying law and lives in Satyaniketan.
“A friend told me about this job and I applied. My parents were slightly apprehensive about me working at a place mostly frequented by men. However, they were convinced when I told them that there are other young women working here,” she said. The station has six women attendants who were trained for a week in reading the metre and learning about diesel and petrol vehicles before being put on duty.
Now more than six months in the job, Singh is more confident in dealing with any kind of customer. She has a fixed eight-hour duty from 10am to 5pm.
She said her co-workers are warm and helpful. “Against popular perception, petrol pumps are safe places for women to work. Most customers behave nicely. Also, since I am off by evening I don’t have to deal with drunken motorists. But there have been instances when there are long queues and some customers lose patience and start yelling at us. We are free to deal with them in our own way or call the supervisor for help,” said Singh.
Station owner Manjit Singh Randhawa said, “We were among the first few stations to employ women in 2003-04. They are more sincere than their male counterparts and take work seriously. Also, customers behave well when they come across women attendants.”
Renu, 18, parking attendant
If you think petrol pump attendant is an unusual choice for a woman, wait till you see Renu issuing parking tokens. Sitting at the cash kiosk, Renu expertly issues receipts and guides vehicle owners to the right parking slot. She is among the fleet of over 20-25 women who are employed as attendants at a private mall’s parking facility in Saket. While some guide the vehicles to enter and exit, the others manage cash counters.
Renu, 18, is happy to be one of them. “I started working to earn and study further. Some of my friends who used to work here referred me. One has to have at least a class X education to qualify. I recently completed school,” she said.
She believes it is a dignified job and that more women must join the sector. “Till some years ago you wouldn’t have seen a single woman working at a parking lot. It is still difficult to work at a public parking, as those places are not well-organised. But here we have a fixed pay and eight-hour duty, which is like working in any other office,” said Renu who comes from Khanpur village.
After seeing her, many other young girls in the village have followed suit. “At the beginning everyone in the family was sceptic about the job. But I showed them the place and they are now proud of me,” she said. She also wants to learn driving so that she can park vehicles on her own. “I will enrol for a driving class once I have saved enough,” she said.