Meet Loco Driver Surekha Yadav, an Achiever Breaking Gender Stereotypes
By: WE Staff
For years women were told what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ for them. This also extended to their choice of career; some industries were inherently thought to be better suited for men. In the Indian context, the railways were also thought to be a sector that might not be conducive for women.
This is where trailblazing women like ‘Surekha Yadav’ shine as beacons of change.
Surekha is an Indian Railways employee and the first female train driver in India. She made history yet again by becoming the first woman to operate India's first indigenous semi-high-speed train, the Vande Bharat Express on 13th March 2023.
She joined the Indian Railways in 1986 and has been serving as a train driver for more than 30 years. She has driven a wide range of trains, including local passenger trains, express trains, and freight trains.
Surekha is a trailblazer in the Indian railway industry. Her achievements are a testament to her dedication, perseverance, and commitment to breaking gender stereotypes and paving the way for other women in male-dominated fields.
An Illustrious Career
Surekha is committed to operating trains safely and has never had a railway accident on record. She currently works ten hours a day and drives a variety of trains, including local suburban trains, ghat trains with two engines, and express trains for freight and mail. Her dream job would be as a long-distance train conductor. She has furthermore taken part in initiatives to combat eve-teasing.
She started driving freight trains in 1998 and switched to operating on the ghats on the Western Ghat railway line in 2010. She acquired specialised training to operate the twin-engined passenger trains that navigate the hills of western Maharashtra and was the first motorwoman in Asia to pilot Deccan Queen. She received a promotion to express mail driver in May 2011 and is now serving as Senior Instructor at Driver's Training Centre (DTC) Kalyan.
Surekha becoming the first female train driver in India inspired many young women to break stereotypes and pursue their dreams. She was a role model for many and was widely recognized for her contribution to women's empowerment in the country.
Overall, Surekha’s dedication to her job, her passion for driving trains, and her commitment to breaking gender stereotypes have made her a true initiator and an inspiration to millions of women in India and around the world.
In 2001, Surekha made history when she became the first female train driver in India. She drove the prestigious Deccan Queen Express from Mumbai to Pune, and later went on to drive many other trains, including the Flying Ranee Express. Surekha’s accomplishment has been documented in several books and films, including the 2015 Marathi film "Express: Aisle Seat No. 2" and the 2019 documentary "Women's Voice."
In addition to her career in the Indian railways, Surekha is also a social activist and has been actively involved in several initiatives to promote women's empowerment and education in rural areas of Maharashtra.
In 2019, Surekha was awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar, the highest civilian award for women in India, for her contribution to the railway industry. Her achievement was celebrated by many as a significant milestone for women's empowerment in the country.
In India, Surekha is the foremost woman to operate a train, and as of 2011, 50 female locomotive drivers were driving passenger and freight trains. She has never faced prejudice and has the full support of her family, friends, and co-workers.
Surekha joined the Central Railway in 1986 as a trainee assistant driver after being interviewed by the Railway Recruitment Board, Mumbai, in 1987. In 1989, she was hired as a regular assistant driver, and in 1996, she was the driver of the first local goods train.
An Outcome of Systemic Change
Women's participation in the Indian railways has increased significantly in recent years, thanks to various initiatives and policies aimed at promoting gender diversity and inclusivity in the sector.
One such initiative is the Women's Reservation System (WRS) introduced in 2018, which aims to increase the representation of women in non-gazetted railway jobs. Under this system, 33% of all posts in non-gazetted railway jobs are reserved for women. This policy has helped to increase the number of women in railway jobs, especially in areas such as ticketing, customer service, and administration.
About Surekha’s Personal Life
Surekha was born in 1965 in Satara, Maharashtra. She was later selected for the post of Assistant Loco Pilot (ALP) at the Central Railway's Kalyan shed, where she underwent a year-long training to become a full-fledged train driver in 1991. Over the years, she drove several prestigious trains, including Paschim Express, and Intercity Express.
Her achievement serves as motivation to women across the country who aspire to break gender barriers and pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated fields. Her dedication to her job and her passion for driving trains have paved the way for many other women to follow in her footsteps. The legacies of these powerful women serve as a reminder that women are capable of achieving great things and that their contributions are invaluable.