About 150 traffic wardens have been deployed in Kochi to help manage the traffic at key locations. With city roads clogged around the work sites of the metro rail, traffic wardens assist the police and the public in easing traffic jams.
Despite their service to the city, the job profile and employment contracts of the wardens give them only duties and hardly any rights.
“They are hired by external agencies to help manage traffic. They do not have the rights that police officers have. They cannot do anything that an ordinary civilian can’t when it comes to the task of maintaining traffic,” Traffic West Assistant Commissioner of Police K.S. Baby Vinod said.
Wardens are recruited by external agencies with a pay of Rs.300 a day. They are trained in traffic laws and other basic subjects for a period of 20 days, after which they are placed in various parts of the city for traffic control. They have to work about six hours a day with breaks for lunch and tea in between. The contractors of the Kochi Metro Rail are perhaps the largest employers of traffic wardens in the city. Other agencies too, however, have employed wardens to ease traffic around their establishments.
The terms of employment of traffic wardens practically put them in the same position as daily-wage labourers. “We are not paid if we take leave or can’t work a day. That means that those who are unwell will still turn up for duty because they need the money. There is no insurance if they are hurt during the course of duty either,” said Rasheed Thalath, president of the Traffic Wardens’ Welfare Society.
He said the society had been making plans to get an insurance scheme implemented for the wardens in the city. “The police also give us no respect and treat us unfairly despite the service we give,” he said.
Police officials, however, said their hands were tied as the rules did not permit them to employ outsiders. “If they are not our employees, we cannot interfere in their issues,” said Mr. Vinod.
In spite of all these problems, many people still do come forward to take up the job of a traffic warden. “It is true that I might get more money if I did daily-wage labour. But there is some respect in this job. There is an element of public service in this job that gives us some satisfaction,” said a traffic warden posted in the city.