All-women staff keep Chandragiri Railway station on tracks

Chandragiri Station Superintendent M Lalitha Usha Rani(Right Top);RPF constable V Swathi Lakshmi guarding the station (Right Bottom); Points woman M Shyamala on duty at the station (Left Pic)
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Chandragiri Station Superintendent M Lalitha Usha Rani(Right Top);RPF constable V Swathi Lakshmi guarding the station (Right Bottom); Points woman M Shyamala on duty at the station (Left Pic)

Highlights

In a profession, typically dominated by men, South Central Railway officials dreamed of a railway station – run exclusively by all women staff. The move was considered 'out-of-the-box' by some who supported the idea

When the idea of running a railway station with all women staff was mooted in 2018 on the eve of Women's day, the staff who were called upon to take up the responsibilities at the station had some apprehensions! Unmindful of the 'mixed feelings', they worked together surpassing all challenges.

In a profession, typically dominated by men, South Central Railway officials dreamed of a railway station – run exclusively by all women staff. The move was considered 'out-of-the-box' by some who supported the idea.

Critics, however, considered it as ambitious and even downplayed it as farfetched. Three years later, the 'farfetched yet ambitious' idea shattered all doubts and stood tall as an example of what women could accomplish.

To implement the idea of all women station, SCR had chosen Chandragiri station as it was closer to Tirupati and being a small station, it requires less staff. Accordingly, the officials have drafted all women staff from station superintendent to station masters, points women, booking clerk, security and sub staff.

It was the third such station in India after Matunga and Gandhinagar after which Begumpet and Vidyanagar in Hyderabad and Ramavarappadu station in AP also became all women stations.

On an average it used to see a footfall of around 500 passengers before Covid whereas now the number fell down about 100-150. It has three station masters now including one station superintendent, three points women and two RPF staff who work in shifts.

"Though we had experience of working at junctions, this is relatively a different feeling. Here we have to discharge not only operational duties but also commercial work. We had some tension initially, but the officials have guided and motivated us", said the station superintendent M Lalitha Usha Rani.

Along with her, station masters N Nirmala Devi and C Padmaja have been running the station with ease. Even the staff had some fears over their security and felt loneliness at the station particularly during night which was located some 3 kms away from Chandragiri town.

However, their fears vanished soon with the regular patrolling by local police, frequent visits of RPF sleuths and other officials from Tirupati.

To encourage the staff, the SCR officials have even provided some amenities there which are not normally seen at other small stations. The station was equipped with RO water system, Refrigerator, good lighting, announcement system, CC cameras among other things. Women welfare association has provided a microwave oven there.

Daily 30 trains pass through the station while 14 passenger trains and two express trains halt there. But due to Covid pandemic, now only eight passenger trains are being operated through it. The station gets DRM group award under which the staff received certificates of appreciation and cash awards too.

"Station staff is our strength with which we were able to run it successfully for over three years. As the duties are the same at any station, we have been discharging all the duties without any exceptions with the spirit and team work of all staff", said a beaming Usha Rani.

The points woman M Shyamala who has been working there since 2004 and the RPF constable V Swathi Lakshmi have said that they have no security issues at the station and work at a happy atmosphere.

However, as the station is far away from the main town and women staff have to travel alone, if the regular transport is arranged by the officials the staff may feel more comfort and safety.

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