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Women Take on the Steering Wheel of India's First Goods Train With an All-female Crew

Western Railways just flagged off its first all-women driven goods train | Image credit: Twitter

Western Railways just flagged off its first all-women driven goods train | Image credit: Twitter

On January 5, India saw its first all-female goods train flag off from Maharashtra and reach Gujarat, going down in history as the first goods train in India to be driven by an all-woman crew.

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Buzz Staff

With the new year, women in India seem to be turning over a new leaf. Or should we say wheel?

On January 5, 2021, India saw its first all-female goods train flag off from Maharashtra and reach Gujarat, going down in history as the first goods train in India to be driven and crewed by women.

Three women who drove the train included Aakanksha Ray, Udita Verma, and Kumkum Suraj Dongre in a novel move by Western Railway's Mumbai division.

The train was driven by Ray who served as the Goods Guard. The MBA graduate from Indore was accompanied by Dongre who was the Loco Pilot and Verma who served as the Senior Assistant Loco Pilot, Mumbai Mirror reported.

Ray, who went down in history as the first driver of an all-women crewed goods train, felt that the move might help women break the glass ceiling by taking up jobs and roles that were traditionally reserved for men.

The fully loaded goods train carrying a cargo of 3,686 tonnes in 43 closed wagons, departed from Vasai Railway Station in Palghar and arrived in Vadodara on Tuesday.

According to a 2019 report in The Wire, nearly five lakh women had applied for jobs in the Railways including the roles of drivers, welders, fitters, and machinists. In comparison, the number of applications for filling railway vacancies from male contenders crossed 42 lakh.

Following the lakhs of applications in the last year, the Indian Railways has hired nearly 500 women as drivers among others in different capacities with a view to challenging gender stereotypes when it came to employing women in heavy-duty jobs as well as across other divisions in the railways.

But despite the increase in numbers of women employed in the largely male-dominated railways sector, conditions remain harsh. With no toilets, erratic timings, night shifts, and unsafe routes, the work is tough.

But women are nevertheless choosing the job and Western Railways has lauded the move as a step in the right direction. WR General Manager Alok Kansal was quoted by news portal Onmanorama as saying that the Western Railways had "broken yet another stereotype that has left an indomitable impression in the annals of history. The women have set a glaring example that no job is beyond the capacity of women to perform and excel".

Western Railways also tweeted an image of the crew on its official Twitter handle.

The first woman to become a loco pilot or train driver in India was Surekha Yadav who made history in 1988 by driving a train for Central Railways. Yadav, who later went on to drive the Deccan Queen from Pune to CST on the occasion of Women's Day, also piloted the first "Ladies Special" train that was launched under an initiative by the then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in April 2000.


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