Women are an integral part of almost all professions- abundant in some and not so abundant in some others. On the Indian Railways, women have successfully worked a locomotive – a profession once considered a male bastion.
Though the exact number of women loco pilots (LPs) is not available in the public domain, their numbers are only increasing with each passing day. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, RailPost contributors Aditya S Nivarthi and Prithviraj Chiyyodu spoke to six women LPs; Ramya, Sirisha, Renuka, Gowri, Deepthi and Savita based at South Central Railway, Secunderabad on why they chose to work locos.
Q: How did your family and friends react when you told them you have decided to be a LP?
A: We were fortunate enough as none of our relatives or friends opposed us. Since childhood, we dreamt of joining Railways and we succeeded.
Q. Have you been in situations while working a loco, which made you think whether being an LP was the right choice?
A; Most of us joined this service couple of years ago. At times, while driving, animals are run over. Also, many people try to end their lives on the tracks. At that moment we go blank for few seconds – but it is vital for us to save thousands of passengers’ lives rather than thinking about these untoward incidents.
Q: How do you cope with unearthly working hours associated with an LP’s profession?
A: We work in 8-hour shifts predominantly during mornings and evenings.We are generally not allotted night shifts.
Q: What are the common problems did you face working as an ALP/LP?
A: In the initial days, due to very few women, we were afraid; be it while on board a loco, in running rooms, and offices. However, our male colleagues, as well as senior women staff, encouraged us from time to time.
Q: How did IR help you solve these problems?
A: The work atmosphere for women staff has greatly improved. We are free to discuss our problems and express our grievances to our higher officials whenever the need arises.
Q: Any instances where your male colleagues went out of their way to make you feel comfortable?
A: Yes, while inspecting a loco, it becomes tough for women to oversee all the components inside. During those situations, our co- male LP/ALP assists us.
Q: Do you get any pick up drop at your place?
A: Yes, whenever we had to work at wee hours of the day, our male colleagues dropped us home. So, we felt safe.
Q: If you are given a choice of another profession, would you still like to become an LP?
A: Yes (unanimous answer). We are hugely satisfied with our current profession.
Q: Would you recommend other women to take up the job of an LP?
A: If women are courageous enough, being an LP/ALP is one of the best careers.