No friend requests on Facebook, no chatting on WhatsApp and no double entendres are some of the directions the Railway Protection Force (RPF) issued to all to staffers to ensure a “congenial and safe work place” for women. The directions – 11 in all – were issued after several complaints from women staffers, particularly those deployed alone with men. Issued on January 15 and signed by RPF Director General (DG) Dharmendra Kumar, the RPF order stated, “It has been observed that while deploying women personnel at post and outpost, due care is not being taken to provide them a congenial and safe work place”.
The order also noted, “Several complaints are being received in this regard from the women personnel alleging improper behaviour from the male colleagues and supervisors. Therefore, necessary steps are required to be taken to protect the interests of the women personnel and to develop a mechanism at Zonal and Divisional levels to resolve any such issue without delay and taking action against the guilty.”
When contacted, Kumar told The Indian Express that he received some complaints from women staffers, particularly those deployed alone at male-dominated posts. “I decided to discuss the issue with women officers. Before issuing these guidelines we took the views and suggestions of women personnel. This is supposed to encourage a code of conduct so there is a conducive and comfortable work environment,” he said.
He added that all officers concerned have been asked to start following and implementing these guidelines in their zones. “We have taken action on complaints. But there are many women who do not complain fearing stigma and keep on suffering. So these guidelines will prevent that,” Kumar said.
Other directions include: “Not less than two women staff should be deployed at a particular post or station. Posting a single woman may be avoided at any post/outpost. A single woman personnel should not be deployed during the night hours and isolated places like railway yards, escorting duties and passenger reservation system (PRS).”
Kumar also asked all supervisor officers not to call female staffers alone inside their chambers or any isolated locations for discussions or briefings. “The male staff at the post should be counselled, advised, and instructed to maintain proper decorum if a woman staff is around, while making conversation and suitable body language should be ensured.
Frivolous/double meaning conversations with/in front of women staff should not be made, particularly at work place,” the order stated.
“Mobile calls to the women personnel should be made strictly for official purposes only. Any advance on social media like sending friends request on Facebook and Whatsapp chatting should be avoided. Facility of changing room/rest room may be provided at RPF post/outposts, wherever women personnel are deployed,” the order stated.
The order added that if a female officers shared personal grievances with supervisors, it should be ensured by the supervisor that is not done in public, which could cause embarrassment to the officers concerned.