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Two Telangana Women Write History by Becoming First Female 'Linemen' of the State

Women electricians | Image for representation | Credit: Reuters

Women electricians | Image for representation | Credit: Reuters

Babburi Sirisha and Vaankudothu Bharathi have made history by becoming the first 'linemen' in Telangana after winning a court case against TSSPDCL's discriminatory hiring rules.

Women have come a long way in achieving gender equality in the workforce. But despite women being as able and capable of performing all roles in the professional sphere equally well as men, professional titles and designations continue to be gendered.

Even today, many professions are suffixed with the word ‘man’. Take the job of ‘lineman’, for instance. Electrical jobs have traditionally been associated with men and the electrical engineering sector as well as heavy-duty industries remain largely male-dominated. But two women in Telangana are trumping such gender stereotypes after they created history by becoming the first woman linemen (or should we say line women?) in the state.

Previously, the rules for filling vacancies at Telangana Southern Power Distribution Corporation Limited (TSSPDCL) prohibited women from applying to posts like linemen since such jobs required heavy-duty, rigorous activities that women were not expected to perform.

The official rules stated that women would find the job difficult and could not discharge their duties as linemen because “they need to climb the eighteen-feet electricity poles quite frequently, which was considered perilous for women.”

The stark discrimination against women in forming rules based on such stereotypical assumptions irked some female electricians in the state. According to a report in Times of India, Babburi Sirisha, ITI in Electrician trade, led other women to challenge the archaic rule of TSSPDCL by filing a case of gender bias against them in 2019 in the Delhi High Court. They wanted to be given a fair chance to at least apply for the post before being dismissed because of their gender.

The legal war raged on for an entire year. Finally, authorities conceded that women could indeed apply for the job of lineman. Following the verdict, Sirisha and eight other women applied for the job of ‘lineman’ for TSSPDCL.

Sirisha, who hails from Ganeshpally village of Markook Mandal in Siddipet district did not waste this opportunity and worked hard to ace the qualifying exam. Along with her, Vaankudothu Bharathi, a 32-year-old mother of two, also passed the exam for “junior lineman.”

The next step of the exam is a physical Pole Test which is mandatory to ace for securing the position. Both the women managed to climb up the pole in less than a minute, thus becoming the first two line women of Telangana.

Following instructions from the Court, TSSPDCL has issued appointment letters to both the women for the post as they cleared all the qualifying parameters. Speaking to Telangana Today, Shirisha revealed it was her uncle who encouraged her to get the training for the electrician trade.

“We worked hard to get here. We will ensure we are referred to as line women,” said Shirisha.

As for Bharathi, she spoke to Times of India and credited her husband for her victory. “I hope men in the (power) department were as supportive of women as he is.” He was the one who trained her every day for pole climbing for more than two hours.

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