On the call of duty

Woman power

You meet them everyday while commuting on Delhi Metro — sometimes frisking you with an apologetic smile and at others, moving around with weapons.

On guard : Womnen CISF personnel at Delhi Metro.

Throughout the day, they travel in clusters from one station to another making sure that men don’t get into the women’s coach. And at the end of the day, you will find them sitting right next to you like ordinary woman going back home after a hard day at work.

They are the women Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel deployed at Delhi Metro. They are expected to work round the clock, without any leave, in the most critical situations like bomb blasts, and yet ensure that Delhiites travelling on the metro reach their homes safely.

The CISF is responsible for providing security to Delhi Metro from external security threats like unauthorized arms and terror attacks. Of the total 5000 CISF personnel deployed in with Delhi Metro, 722 are women. Of these, 208 are married – some of them with little children. But of course, that doesn’t deter them from the call of duty.

The DIG of the CISF (Delhi Metro), Udayan Banerjee says, “These women lead a very tough life. The CISF being an all-India service, they are recruited from all over the country. After almost a year of hard physical training, they are given postings. As a rule, the first six years have to be served at a location outside their home zone. So, the comfort of a family is  missing, until and unless you can arrange for them to stay here.” He adds that at Delhi Metro, the CISF prefers to keep young women personnel with ‘soft skills’ — those who can manage a threatening intruder as well as a lost child or a woman commuter who suddenly falls ill.

There are four kinds of duties assigned to them: some of them do frisking and bag-checking. Others make the Crime and Intelligence Team, which moves around in plain-clothes profiling commuters. The Quick Reaction Team (QRT) takes care of security emergencies and sub-inspectors form station in-charges who are responsible for full coordination. They work in three shifts: 6 am to 2 pm, 2 pm to 10 pm and finally 10 pm to 6 am. The ones on morning shift have to get up at 4 am at least to get ready and reach their stations, while the married women wake up even earlier to prepare food for their families. There are no weekly offs and during festivals, Delhi automatically goes on high alert, so holidays during that time are mostly cancelled.

It is surprising that even with such a strenuous work schedule, these women manage to stay alert and smiling. Shiji S, from Kerala, is a sub-inspector CISF and part of the women QRT team. She says, “This is a security force job. We are on call 24 hours a day. We can’t say that we’re not on duty. But then, that is the nature of the work. We can’t complain.”

Her colleague, Monika Borgohain, from Assam, who is in charge of the ‘Women Crime and Intelligence Wing’, adds, “Since my hometown is so far off, I am able to visit it only twice a year. But my colleagues and roommates at the ladies’ hostel are so friendly and helpful, they are almost like family.” Brave and hardworking, these women certainly live up to the CISF motto: ‘Duty with courtesy’ and ‘Security with a smile’.

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