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THREE YEARS have passed since the Chandigarh administration had decided to hire 72 women conductors for its CTU buses. Now, these conductors have made the side-facing seat of the bus their home, collecting money, giving receipts, whistling at stops and working with utmost grace. The coming in of female bus conductors has made it more comfortable and safer for women commuters. Vandana, a regular commuter on CTU buses, said, “Female conductors usually take special care of our safety when there is a rush in the bus. They are concerned about our protection and make it a point to look out for us, whereas the male conductors don’t care at all.”
Another commuter, Simran, too, echoed the same. “They are usually much more helpful and polite than the male conductors. We feel safer and protected in their presence.” Naresh Kumari, a bus conductor hailing from Kaithal, has been working for almost two-and-a-half years now. Nowadays, she can be found on bus 2C which goes all the way to Manimajra from ISBT-17. “I find my job pretty satisfactory. Initially, I faced many difficulties and I felt like venturing into unknown territory because I had no idea of the city’s routes. However, now, I am well versed with the roads of Chandigarh and can guide passengers in the right direction.” Talking about the on-duty challenges, she said, “Sometimes, people argue over petty issues such as buying of tickets, but no serious problems such as eve-teasing or molestation have ever come up.”
Resembling a female constable from afar, these fierce, independent and powerful women, wearing beige overalls, are ready to transport you all day, every day with a smile not showing a sign of the ordeal they have to go through on the job.
Ritu, a conductor and a resident of Ramgarh, said, “I travel for one hour daily on my Activa to report to ISBT-17 for duty. I have to leave at 4 in the morning to reach my workplace at 5:30. And, when I am on evening duty, I become free as late as 9.30 pm and reach home around 11 at night. Although there is no difference in duties of a male and female bus conductor, the department should transfer women conductors to general day shifts and give evening shifts to the men.”
She added with a smile, “These things are a part of the job, but it gets tougher for females because of the expectation of doing household chores that the society burdens them with. I barely get four to five hours of sleep.”
This sector, while giving space to women for new opportunities, is still highly male dominant. Many woman conductors have felt this, suffering from the patriarchal arrangement of the bus stands.
“There are no clean washrooms at the bus stands which turns it into a breeding ground for infections and diseases. There is a pregnant woman working on the Zirakpur bus stand, where no seating arrangement or toilets have been made for the clerks. She has no place to rest and there is nothing that our supervisors are doing about this instead of giving her the duty of manning the help desk, a woman conductor said.