Six tribal women from Kerala script history as home guards


Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Every  day, Pappathi K walks for around one hour from her settlement in Adiyakandiyoor, traversing the hilly forest, to reach Attapadi town. From there, she will board the morning bus to the police station in Agali, where she has been working as a home guard over the past month.Currently, the 39-year-old is busy keeping a check on public movement in Goolikkadavu town in Palakkad, making sure the ongoing two-day restrictions the government has imposed across the state are adhered to. She ensures everybody wears a mask and also verifies their ID cards. 

Pappathi is one of the six woman home guards under the Fire and Rescue Services department, appointed from the tribal settlement in Attapadi for the first time in the state’s history. The tribal women were recruited in the wake of the government order allowing 30% vacancies for women in the appointment of home guards in the Kerala Fire and Rescue Services Department.

According to Palakkad district fire officer Rtheej V K, Pappathi K, K Jayalekshmi, Leela R, Sindu D K, Bindu R and Shelvi K were chosen to empower women from the tribal belt. “Nearly 100 tribal men and women lost the jobs at Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS) a few years ago. The district administration here has been helping them find jobs in various other sectors to support their livelihood.

When we received the government order allocating vacancies for woman home guards last year, we invited applications from women who lost their jobs in AHADS. For tribal women, we set the selection criteria with a physical test and education qualification of Class 10 (pass) and above. Thus, 10 such candidates were selected, and as per the available vacancies, we recruited six of them. The rest of them will be appointed when new vacancies come. Considering the convenience of travel, we posted four of them at the Agali Police Station and two at the Sholayur Police Station. These stations are near their settlements,” said Rtheej.

As per the information received from the Fire and Rescue Services department, the candidates proved their physical fitness by completing a 100m run in 18 seconds and a 3km walk in 30 minutes, as part of the field-level tests that were held in February. 

The test was monitored by a district-level panel comprising police, Sainik Welfare Board and Fire Service Department officials, who also verified their educational qualifications. The woman squad was subsequently given a six-day training from March 1, which included basic first aid, various firefighting techniques as per the cause of the outbreak, personal development, traffic regulation etc, at the Fire Station in Mannarkad. Though the home guards are appointed by the Fire and Rescue Services department, they are advised to perform services like traffic control and regulations, rescue services in national calamities including civil defense operations, as special police constables at the time of the election, patrol assistance and community policing.

Elated to complete one month in service, Pappathi remembers the “best moment of her life” — the passing out parade held on March 8 (Women’s Day) in front of B Sandhya, Additional Director General of Police, Fire and Rescue Services.“The six-day training was very fruitful for us. It made us understand the value of the uniform we are wearing. I am very respected now in my settlement. I can raise my voice and warn the hooligans who used to mistreat women in my region. My job has inspired my kids too. My 15-year-old daughter’s wish is to become an IPS officer now,” said Pappathi.Jayalakshmi K too echoes Pappathi’s sentiments. “I was able to restrict the use of ganja and brewing of illicit liquor in my settlement Venkadavu,” she said.

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