Tribal woman jumps gender hurdle, wins test of nerves

Making her way to the top: Vankudothu Bharathi climbing a pole near her house in Desiya Thanda.   | Photo Credit: Serish Nanisetti

Desiya Thanda cannot be found on any online map. Deep inside Telangana, beyond Thorrur in Jangaon district, lies the hamlet which Vankudothu Bharathi has brought under the spotlight by winning a test of nerves, entrenched misogyny and legal challenges.

“I climbed up and down an 8-metre electricity pole in under a minute and I am now waiting for the appointment letter from Telangana State Southern Power Distribution Corporation Limited,” says Ms. Bharathi, a wiry five-foot tall woman. While her eight-year-old son sleeps in a hammock, her four-year-old daughter plays with scampering chickens in front of the house.

“I am the first person in my family, from both my mother’s and father’s side, to be educated and about to get a government job. I have written many competitive exams, but I managed to pass the TSSPDCL exam for junior lineman,” says Ms Bharathi who had to get court orders twice to break the vertical ceiling.

Hailing from a farming family, she finished her M.Com from Kakatiya University in 2012. Thanks to a supportive husband, she continued her job hunt even after marriage. Realising that just an academic degree would not help, she did a course for electricians from an Industrial Training Institute. Then she ran into a legal wall. “While the TRANSCO job notification had 33% reservation for women, the TSSPDCL made no provision for women’s reservation. Thirty-eight other women and I filed a petition for the same and won,” informs Ms. Bharathi.

But after the examination, the TSSPDCL conducted the pole-climbing test only for men. Again, Ms. Bharathi went to the High Court which ordered the department to conduct the pole climbing test for women as well. Ms Bharathi aced that test too.

“After practising a lot, I realised climbing an electrical pole is not that difficult,” she says. Wetting her palms and feet, she climbs a disused electricity pole near the house. The climb is effortless. “The key is the grip. When we went for the test, they wanted me to wear the security harness but I wore only the hard-hat and salwar kameez and climbed,” she says.

“I used to practice climbing the pole secretly so that family members didn’t see me. I was worried they would laugh and snigger if I don’t get the job. Now, people from many surrounding villages know my name and are proud of what I have achieved,” says Ms Bharathi, who is waiting for the appointment letter for junior lineman. A letter which will make the government rethink the job title to include competent women like Ms Bharathi.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 7:57:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/tribal-woman-jumps-gender-hurdle-wins-test-of-nerves/article33571315.ece

Next Story