From new drivers struggling to park their cars to smart riders who try to park their motorbikes for free, the parking attendants of Kottayam railway station have seen it all. The all-woman team has been successfully negotiating all kinds of people who want to park their vehicles in the railway station.
The prime parking area in the town was transformed when the Kudumbasree took over the collection of parking fees almost a year ago. And thus, these women have accessed yet another workplace dominated by men.
Kudumbasree workers took control of the parking lot in the railway station on November 30, 2016. Most of them did not even have any experience in driving or riding. Although there were some initial hiccups, the railway is happy with the work of these women. So is the public who are using the parking facility.
“We had received 15 days of training before we started work. That training helped us overcome the initial problems," one of them said.
The parking fee collection was a bone of contention between the drivers and the people manning the lot. Skirmishes were common when men were in charge of the lot. Now the facility is largely problem-free.
“Maybe women have more patience. The people are generally cooperative. There are minor issues but we manage it among ourselves. If we feel things are getting out of hand, we seek help from our superiors or in some cases, the police.”
The secret of the project’s success is teamwork. There are three teams to look after the parking lot. “Each of us works 10 days a month. We work 24 hours. We get to rest only for the short time when we charge the billing machine,” Kudumbasree co-ordinator K.K. Mini said.
The women are not scared to work outdoors round the clock because they can always count on assistance from the CRPF and the Railway Police. They are able to balance their life and work because they work in shifts.
The team, however, has a hard time dealing with careless users. “Some of the drivers are in so much of a hurry that they leave the keys on the vehicles. There are thieves who anticipate such carelessness. There were a couple of such incidents in the beginning but the police acted in time to find the stolen vehicles. Nowadays, we are also keeping an eye on this.”
The Kudumbasree women work out of a shed that is also a place of rest for them. “We could have done with a room with electricity connection.”
The workers have put up a request before the railway authorities. Another demand is the trimming of trees near the parking lot. “It is likely that the branches crash on to the parked vehicles. Two-wheeler riders are more in danger. The vehicles are damaged by the bird droppings too. Many of the users cover their two-wheelers.”
Apparently, with their relentlessly sunny disposition and patience, these women do this job better than men and they always find optimum utilization of the limited space, the IRCTC officials of Kottayam railway station vouch for the same.