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Breaking Barrier, Challenging Stereotypes - 5 Women Bus Drivers From India Who Dared to Challenge Traditional Notions of Gender Equality

For M Vasanthakumari, it was not at all a smooth journey to become Asia’s first woman bus driver. The bus industry in India is predominately ruled by men, and back in 1993 when she joined the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation, it was especially difficult for a woman to fit in. 

But over the last few years, things are steadily changing and the Indian bus industry, today, is witnessing an increase in participation of women. 

While many women bus drivers still start the job because of compulsion just like Vasanthakumari, their guts and gumption have nonetheless made it possible to not only survive in their profession, but also create a positive impression in this sphere of work.

Here we cite 5 female bus drivers from India who have shattered gender stereotyping and have inspired their peers to take up commercial vehicle driving despite odd onlookers’ gawking eyeballs.

1.      Kalpana Mondal, West Bengal

Kalpana Mondal Youngest Bus Driver of India
PC: Kalpana Mondal

Kalpana Mondal was just 21 years old when she found her passion for driving heavy vehicles. Mondal’s world came crashing when her father, who was also a bus driver, met with an accident and both his legs were operated on with metal plates. 

Braving the odds, she learnt the tricks of the trade from her father and qualified the test for driving commercial vehicles.  

In addition to daily efforts to drive a full-size bus on the narrow streets of Kolkata, she is often interrogated by police sergeants because they are curious how a young lady is driving a bus. 

At 22, she is the youngest woman bus driver in India. On being asked about her future goals, she lamented that she couldn’t find time to continue with her studies.

2.      Seema Thakur, Himachal Pradesh

Seema Thakur Women Bus Driver in HRTC
PC: Outlook India

Seema Thakur joined Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) in 2016 as a lone driver among 8,800 employees. She initially drove taxis because "authorities couldn't trust a woman driving a bus". 

Eventually, she went on to drive an electric bus a bus on the Shimla-Solan route. Then earlier in 2021, she undertook her first inter-state route driving Shimla - Chandigarh and becoming the HRTC woman driver to do so. 

Armed with a master's degree in English, she enjoys her daily job and hopes that more women would come forward to join the profession. 

Having served as a frontline worker during the lockdown, she is very proactive in spreading awareness for the COVID-19 pandemic and has urged the government to provide vaccination to drivers and conductors on a priority basis.

3     Pooja Devi, Jammu & Kashmir

Puja Devi Only Women Bus Driver in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir
PC: India Times

In December 2020, a photograph of the first female bus driver from Jammu and Kashmir went viral when Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh shared the image of Pooja Devi from Kathua District, J&K on Twitter. 

Mother of three children, Pooja Devi is passionate about driving and ferries passengers on the Jammu-Kathua route. While her choice of becoming a bus driver was not heartily accepted by her family members, she is grateful to her instructor, Rajinder Singh and the Jammu-Kathua Bus Union who reposed faith in her.

While driving the passenger bus on the Jammu-Kathua route, she is often accompanied by her 7-year-old son.

4.      Venkadarath Saritha, New Delhi

Vebkadarath Saritha first women bus driver of DTC
PC: The Newsminute

30-year-old  Venkadarth Saritha  came to Delhi from Telegana and became a beacon of women’s empowerment, as Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) appointed her as the it's first female driver. 

Like most other women bus drivers, she had also struggled against all odds.  

Initially, she used to ride an auto rickshaw because of financial problems in the family following her father’s prolonged illness. She later shifted to Delhi and joined the Delhi Transport Corporation. 

5.      M Vasanthakumari, Tamil Nadu

M Vasanthakumari first women bus driver in Asia
PC: Better India

When M Vasanthakumari first applied for a bus driver’s job with the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), the officials shrugged and told that there were hardly any women bus drivers in the world. 

"When I applied for the post in the early 90s, the industry was not as accommodating as it is now. I was dissuaded by everyone, even the officials. How will you survive in an industry where even men struggle? I was often questioned," she tells Coach Builder India - CBI. 

The winner of Raindropss Women Achiever Award 2016, M Vasanthakumari,       earned her name as Asia’s first woman bus driver. She retired from her job in 2017.

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