Breaking the myth that women can’t do strenuous jobs as men, 51-year-old Surekha Yadav became India’s, to be precise, Asia’s first female train driver, that too almost three decades ago in 1988.
She was the first driver of ‘Ladies Special’ local train that Central Railways introduced when Mamata Banerjee was the Railway Minister, in April 2000. However, her greatest achievement came on 8 March 2011. On International Women’s day, she drove Deccan Queen from Pune to CST, through difficult yet a scenic topography.
Yadav was selected and joined the Central Railway as a trainee assistant driver in l986 at the Kalyan Training School where she trained for six months. She became a regular assistant driver in 1989. The first local goods train that she piloted was numbered L-50, which runs between Wadi Bunder and Kalyan when she was assigned the task of checking the running condition of train’s engine, the signals and all related works. She was then assigned to work as a goods train driver in l996. In 1998, she became a full-fledged goods train driver. In 2010, she became a ghat driver on the Western Ghat railway line. For driving a “ghat loco”, in the ghat (hill) section of the Western Ghats, she received special training to run the twin-engined passenger trains that negotiate the hills of western Maharashtra. In May 2011, she was promoted as an express mail driver. She is currently teaching in Driver’s Training Centre (DTC) Kalyan, as Senior Instructor.
When she joined service with the Indian Railways, she realized that she was the first woman to drive a railway train in India, which till then was totally a male bastion. Other women were inspired by her, and as of 2011, there were 50 women locomotive drivers who were operating suburban trains and goods trains as assistant drivers.
Even though she does not know how to drive a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler vehicle, she is happy driving a nine or 12 car rake of a suburban train which carries 4,500 people. She works for ten hours a day and her ambition is to drive a long distance passenger train.