It's a Dark Diwali For These Haryana Women Bus Conductors Who Were Sacked After Strike Called Off
Sharmila was among three women who benefitted from a recruitment drive for conductors and drivers after permanent employees went on strike to protest against the Haryana government's decision to hire 700 buses from private owners.
Sharmila, who suffers 40 percent disability in one of her legs, was on cloud nine on October 25 when she was recruited to be a bus conductor. (Image: News18)
Sirsa/Rewari (Haryana): It was just a week ago that Anuj (10) and Laxmi (7) were excited to celebrate their first Diwali after years of trauma at the hands of a drunk father.
Their hopes, however, have been dashed and this Diwali would also be dark. For, their mother Sharmila, 32, was asked to leave after nine days of employment as Haryana Roadways’ first woman conductor.
Sharmila, who suffers 40 percent disability in one of her legs, was on cloud nine on October 25 when she was recruited to be a bus conductor. She has never let her disability stand in her way. She feels that even though facilities like toilets for women conductors and changing rooms were not there, it was the passengers who made her feel comfortable.
She was among three women who benefitted from a recruitment drive for conductors and drivers after permanent employees went on strike to protest against the Haryana government's decision to hire 700 buses from private owners. Starting October 16, this strike had struck at the very heart of the public transportation system of Haryana.
“We came to know there are openings in Haryana Roadways, but we did not know on what basis and for which job. I came to the RTO office and on submission of my conductor licence, I was assigned a bus and was asked to start my work as a conductor,” says Sharmila.
Sharmila, now sitting with hundreds others at Rewari’s Nehru Park, was wondering whether she should have invested her energy in this work “or could have looked for other jobs”.
She was never given an appointment letter nor was she given a termination letter. All that she was told was to sell off the tickets remaining with her and leave work.
“As soon as the strike was over, we were asked not to come. When I spoke to the general manager, he told me to finish selling the remaining tickets and go home. New rules say that conductors need to have 10+ years of experience,” says Sharmila while signing a letter addressed to the DCP and detailing her grievance.
A mother of two, she could not have imagined stepping out for work while she was living with her husband. After years of abuse and being thrown out of her house four days ago, survival has been a daily battle for Sharmila.
“My mother is blind and my father is bedridden. We all survive on their old age pension. But do we deserve this? My Diwali is dark even this year,” she says.
During the strike, the Rewari depot had hired 105 drivers and 130 conductors. Now that the strike has been called off, 235 have been laid off.
Along with Sharmila, two other women — Shefali and Nirmala from Sirsa — were hired as bus conductors.
Shefali, 22, couldn’t believe it at first. Hailing from a family of government servants, she took pride in “working for the government”.
However, she had not even spent a week on the Sirsa–Kagdana–Bhadra route as a conductor when she was left with the task of finding a new job. For Shefali, gaining employment was also a means to avoid the drudgery of early marriage, and to be independent.
“When we were employed, the government boasted of its women empowerment schemes. We were told that we were employed on temporary basis but were also promised to be accommodated into government schemes for women once the strike ended so we could secure employment for ourselves,” Shefali told News18, standing at her designated spot at the Sirsa bus depot, hoping that the general manager would agree to revoke her termination.
Those who were recruited during this drive have also not been paid and plan to write to officials.
Nirmala Devi, who worked as a farmer along with her husband in Huda village, had to muster a lot of courage to work as a conductor. As in the fields, she used to work with her husband in the bus as well.
Unlike other women, however, Nirmala decided to quietly return to farming.
“We do not wish to speak about it. She was employed and now thrown out, we don’t want to question this, but yes we cannot face the villagers now. We should not have been humiliated like this,” says Biswas, Nirmala’s husband.
Apart from the three women whose inspiring journey was abruptly cut short, it’s a dark Diwali for several other ‘temporary workers’, who had left their previous jobs for the ‘coveted’ government job.
“In our country, the notion still exists that even the best of jobs pale in comparison to government jobs. I used to drive Ola cabs, but I left that job. What am I supposed to do now? How do I face my children?” asks Chandra Mohan, who was appointed as a driver on the Sirsa-Ellenabad route.
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