For 43-year old Padmini, penniless and hopeless, life has to go on. She could be thrown out of her rented house anytime as she has not paid rent for last two months. She is a widow with two daughters, both of whom are now married. She will not starve thanks to a government scheme giving subsidized food for Dalits which she can avail. But she is not able to treat her recurring ailments, and she inches towards death every day. None of it is her fault, unless standing up to seek justice is one.
Two years ago, Padmini was a dedicated traffic warden. In November 2013, when she was doing her job, she was allegedly assaulted by a motorist, Vinosh Varghese, son of a District Congress Committee member. She does not know why she was attacked, but that incident and what followed turned her life upside down.
Two years after the incident the case has still not been taken up by the court and the accused has been released on bail.
Padmini was a security guard with the Bright Security Services at Edappaly in Kochi. When Kerala Traffic Police took some of the women guards as traffic wardens for daily wages, she joined them.
On the fateful day, while she was discharging her duty in Kathrikadavu junction in Kochi, the motorist allegedly abused and assaulted her by hitting on her chest. He tore her uniform in front of commuters, blaming her for the damage caused to his vehicle because of an accident in her presence.
Since then, she has been fighting a lone battle for justice. â€śThat day, after this incident, I informed the police but nobody came to rescue me. They asked me to board a bus and reach the station. Somehow I managed to pin my torn shirt using safety-pins. I was badly injured. I boarded bus with tears. When I was about to reach one station they asked me to come to another station, I got down there, then some media persons helped me to reach the station,â€ť she says speaking to The News Minute. She says that police officials had told her not talk to media or tell anyone about her chest injuries. â€śThey said I will be projected badly in the media,â€ť she says.
But no help was forthcoming from the police. She was not receiving proper response from the state.
Padmini says that the police were tapping her mobile phone and threatening people who support her in her fight for justice.
She underwent treatment for 30 days after the assault and when she joined back, the police department had made several changes to the contract with the company regarding traffic wardens. Till then her salary was given by police department and the uniform of the wardens were white shirt and khaki pants. But after the incident, payment was routed through Bright Security Services and uniforms were changed to white and blue.
â€śPolice told other wardens that it is because of me the uniforms were changed, so they all considered me as enemy,â€ť she says.
Many conduits, including policemen, came to her to broker compromise in her assault case. She refused, and in March 2014, she was removed from her job.
She did not just up and leave. Following her removal, she staged a protest in front of the Edappally Traffic East police station for three days against her removal from the job list of traffic wardens in the city. It got her wide media attention. Soon, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala intervened and she was reinstated.
Through the entire ordeal, she says was offered money by associates of Vinosh to end the case, but she was not ready.
But the real torture began when a new supervisor, Latheesh, who is Vinoshâ€™s friend and an INTUC leader, joined Bright, she says. She forced her to withdraw the case and started cutting of her wages and allowances, she says. She also alleges that he verbally abused her based on her caste and reduced her duty so she will be paid less.
In August 2014, he attacked Padmini physically and she was admitted in Ernakulam Medical College Hospital with severe injuries.
â€śHe hit me on my face and in my stomach at the office, I was not even able to get up from the floor,â€ť she said. This time, the police were more careful and told media that Latheesh had been torturing Padmini since he joined, asking her to withdraw the case.
Later in May 2015 another traffic warden Girija K met with an accident during duty time and company did not provide any aid to her. Padmini informed media regarding the issue and this irked the company.
â€śSince then they did not allow me to sign the register, did not give me proper duties and reduced my allowances and wages. I feel like killing myself,â€ť she says.
â€śNow they are telling everyone that, I have mental illness, they had sponsored my treatment it seems,â€ť she added.
Padmini has had to change her accommodation many times as strangers would come knocking on her door and verbally abuse her.
Jayakumar KV, an ex-military officer and former supervisor at Bright says that there were even plans to kill Padmini. â€śIt was because of Latheesh I left the organization one year ago. I have heard from others that he had plans to kill Padmini,â€ť he told TNM.
Jayakumar says that he also had to bear the brunt for supporting Padmini.
â€śI was actually a scape goat. They wanted me to stop supporting her. But each word she says was true. She fights for justice, so I could not stop supporting her,â€ť he said.
Girija, who is still under the treatment after the accident, also says that company tortured Padmini for helping Girija.
â€śShe helped me a lot. I was alone in hospital after accident. Company did not give a single penny. Padmini bought food for me, stayed with me and informed media about the negligence of the firm. This had irked them and now she has lost her job,â€ť she says.
Photos : Kairali TV