Telangana Women Become First Female Linemen for State Power Company
Two women in Telangana have created history by joining the Telangana electricity distribution company as powerline workers and becoming a part of a workforce that has solely comprised men in the state.
Commonly known as ‘linemen,’ powerline workers generally work on outdoor installation and maintenance jobs, which requires them to perform physically demanding activities. 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 tasks women were considered unsuitable for.
The official rules stated that women would find the job difficult and could not discharge the duties of linemen because “they need to climb the 18-feet electricity poles quite frequently, which was considered perilous for women,” reports News18 This belief is not founded on scientific evidence, however. While research suggests it is necessary for workplaces to consider the biological and physiological differences between male and female employees, and to adapt duties to the physical dimensions and capacities of each, the resistance to integrating women in physically demanding work has little to do with inherent differences and more with unfounded socio-cultural notions around the weakness of women and the need to protect them. This patriarchal view is enshrouded in Indian law, even, which prohibits women from engaging in work that is “hazardous, arduous or morally inappropriate.”
And so, Babburi Sirisha, a 20-year-old who holds a certificate in industrial training, decided to challenge the archaic rule of the power distribution corporation — and India’s broader limitations on working women — by filing a case of gender bias against the power distribution corporation in 2019 in the Telangana high court. Sirisha, along with other women who wanted to apply for the post, wanted a chance without being dismissed for their gender.
The legal war raged on for an entire year and saw the power companies—which had initially offered the job to women with a 33% reservation—make unfounded statements, including claiming the women would find it difficult to climb poles. But the verdict from the authorities came in favour of the women, allowing them to apply for the job.
Sirisha, along with Vaankudothu Bharathi, a 32-year-old mother of two, passed the qualifying exam for the post of ‘junior lineman’. The two women aced the second round of exams, which was a physical ‘Pole Test’ by climbing a pole in less than a minute and thus, becoming the first two women ‘lineworkers’ of the state.