For years now, the women deprived of education are forced to choose low profile jobs. There are women who were not sent to schools and had to bend their heads to marriage at an early age. Most women home guards too fall under the category.
The 30-year-old home guard, Chandrakala says, “I quit my studies and got married at the age of fifteen, following the decade old tradition that questions – How do girls benefit from going to school? I somehow managed to study till class 10 but there are class 7 drop outs too amongst us. We can only expect home guard jobs for the education we hold and lead panic-stricken lives.”
The job demands that these women must work at different places irrespective of mornings or nights in case of emergency. They even lack festival celebrations. When the much-awaited New Year had broken the routine life of many; the day remained as usual for women home guards.
“We were assigned duty to keep an eye and monitor the busy roads and crowded spots. When the whole country was absorbed in celebration, we were busy checking the commuters to crackdown drunken drivers. We did duty into the wee hours,” said Suvarna, home guard.
During the festival season they do double the usual work. They are sent to perform duty at temples and churches during Christmas. These trained women also put lot of efforts to bring down the aggravated ambience during dharnas. “We even get injuries and need lot of physical power to lift those ladies who sit for a protest,” adds Suvarna, “We work like dogs during election time.”
They are well trained for 3 months and sent to the field to observe and catch pick pocketers, harassers, at bus stops and railway stations. Chitrakala, says, “Chasing thieves is a backbreaking job. And keep a constant eye on people boarding the bus. When we see a theft happening we rush to nab the culprit, be it a women or men and take them to the nearby police station”.
They have succeeded to inject fear in these thieves, says another home guard Manjulatha. However, at times, when on night duty miscreants, sometimes drunk, stop and ask them their name, where they live etc., and they are worried, and have to be constantly on guard. Lack of washrooms is always an issue with women working outdoors; the women homeguards make do with what ever toilets they find even though they are dirty. While on duty during Periods, this becomes inconvenient; and they find it hard to share their issues with the reporting officer, who is usually male.
Despite the amount of work, they cannot afford to take leave as they will face a cut in the salary they earn. And this puts a lot or pressure especially when they or their children have health issues. However, the new GO has not just increased the salary to Rs 20,000, it has also given provision for a 6-months paid maternity leave.
Interestingly, few of them are preparing hard for the constable job. Manjulatha, Chandrakala, Suvarna had attempted for the constable post thrice but failed. However, failure didn’t deter them from attempting again. These constable aspirants are waiting for the announcement of the notification. “We will start our preparation once the notification is out. We have decided to give our best in the events and the qualifying exam too,” they said in unison.
Part of the preparation is the strenuous practice they need to undergo. They have to manage home, duty and make time for practice at RSC grounds. Once the exam is cleared they practice for 100 meters run, shot put and long jump. All of us being 30 years and above, it will be a painful task and suffer from body and joint pains.
However, a lot of practice is needed to shape ourselves”. “We work hard only to bring our children’s dream to life”, they share.