Linewomen accomplish tasks that were once considered a male preserve
These women handle power, literally. They fix electrical wires and assist in repairing electrical malfunctioning, work considered a male preserve not so long ago.
Bangalore Electricity Supply Company’s “linewoman” Umadevi G. (25), along with Komala and Rajalakshmi, are hauled up the “bucket” van (as they call the crane) to reach the overhanging electric wires to survey them. Later, they need to pour oil into a transformer nearby.
Women at work on electrical installations may be an unusual sight for many, inviting stares from passersby. But that does not bother the women, as they do this work routinely.
Ms. Umadevi has been a linewoman for the last six years, and there are many other women like her. Shortly, Ms. Umadevi is hoping to become junior engineer (JE).
This reporter met a few linewomen from across the State who were in Bangalore for training. Though the idea of recruiting linewomen was broached in 1997, it was not until 2005 that many women actually got into this line of work.
Linewoman Pavithra P., who is with Operation and Maintenance (O/M) section in Chitradurga, said they were involved in the physical work as well as reading meters and monitoring installations. The women said it was not physically stressful as they usually went as part of a team and the men would pitch in if any hard labour was involved like when they needed to lift up a fallen pole.
Some of the women said they had seen their friends get into this line of work and had been inspired to join as well. Though a few of them admitted they were not completely aware of the job requirements before they got in, once in the job they got used to the work.
They were happy that the job environment was friendly and a special child care leave was announced about a year ago (apart from their casual leave). This specifically applies to those who have two children, and care is given until they turn 18.
Some women were pursuing courses in their private time while juggling family responsibilities and the job at hand. Sujatha, an O/M linewoman in Kunigal, is pursuing her diploma in electronics in Kunigal and travels to the city for coaching during her off days.
Linewomen have been able to get into their jobs only in the first decade of the 21st century. Thanks to a petition by Bangalore resident Jayanti R., the High Court ruled in favour of recruiting linewomen. Jayanti moved the court after seeing a Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. (KPTCL) advertisement in the papers in 2005 inviting applications for the posts of lineman. She urged the court to direct the KPTCL to reserve posts for women and questioned why women should be not be employed in jobs like that of the linemen.
On February 29, 2012, the High Court directed the KPTCL to extend the time to enable women to submit applications for the posts, disregarding the notification by the corporation which only allowed male applicants to apply for the post of assistant lineman.
Rejecting the KPTCL’s contention that women were not capable of discharging the tasks assigned to assistant linemen, Justice H.N. Nagamohan Das observed that the argument was baseless in the absence of any field survey or scientific study to demonstrate that women were incapable for the post.
The KPTCL’s appeal against this order, filed in June 2012, is pending before a Division Bench.