5 Women Bus Drivers From India Who Dared to Challenge Traditional Notions of Gender Equality

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Women Bus Drivers from India

For M Vasanthakumari, it was not at all a smooth journey to become Asia’s first women bus driver from India.

The bus industry in India is predominately ruled by men. Back in 1993 when she joined the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), 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 from India 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 women 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.

Kalpana Mondal: Youngest Among Women Bus Drivers From India

Picture of Kalpana Mondal driving a bus. She is India's Youngest Woman Bus Driver is just 22 years old.

Kalpana Mondal was just 21 years old when she found her passion for driving heavy vehicles.

Mondal’s world came crashing down 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 learned the tricks of the trade from her father and qualified for the test for driving commercial vehicles. Today, at 22 years, she is better known as the youngest bus woman bus driver from India.

She drives a Tata 1112w bus on Route 34C, from Esplanade to Noapara in Kolkata, and is extremely proud of her profession as a women bus driver from India.

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 about how a young lady is driving a bus. 

On being asked about her future goals, she lamented that she couldn’t find time to continue with her studies.

She’s very enthusiastic about social media and an ardent fan of Chhota Bheem, the popular Indian animated comedy series for kids.

Seema Thakur: India’s First Woman Volvo Bus Driver

Seema Thakur is India's First Indian Woman Bus driver to drive a Volvo Bus. She drives Volvo bus for Himachal Road Transport Corporation, commonly known as HRTC.

Seema Thakur joined Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) in 2016 as a lone driver among 8,800 employees.

Just like most women bus drivers in India, it was a long journey of struggle for her. And she faced a lot of discrimination.

In the initial days, she was compelled to drive taxis because “the authorities couldn’t trust a woman driving a bus.” 

Eventually, after years of struggle, she went on to drive an electric bus on the Shimla-Solan route.

It was only in 2021, that she was entrusted with her first inter-state bus 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 this profession.

Pooja Devi: First Woman Bus Driver From J&K

Woman Bus Driver from India. Pooja Devi is the First Woman Bus Driver From Jammu & Kashmir, India.

In December 2020, a photograph of Pooja Devi went viral when Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh shared her image on X (read Twitter).

“Proud to have from district #Kathua, #JammuAndKashmir, the first women bus driver Pooja Devi,” he wrote.  

Mother of three children, Pooja Devi is one of the most famous women bus drivers from India.

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.

“My family did not support me initially. But, I am not educated enough to choose any other job, and this suits me. I used to drive a taxi to learn how to drive commercial vehicles. I also drove a truck in Jammu,” she was quoted saying by The Times of India.

As the first women bus driver from India’s Jammu & Kashmir Region, Pooja hopes that her achievement will go on to encourage other women to pursue their dreams.

“Women are flying fighter jets now. I wanted to break the taboo that only men can drive passenger buses. I wanted to send out a message to all women who want to try their hand at challenging jobs and to those whose families would not let them follow their dreams,” she adds.

Venkadarath Saritha: DTC’s Only Woman Bus Driver

Venkadarath Saritha: DTC's Only Woman Bus Driver on her bus.

30-year-old  Venkadarth Saritha came to Delhi from Telangana and became a beacon of women’s empowerment, as Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) appointed her as its first woman driver. 

Like most other women bus drivers from India, her initial days were filled with struggle.  

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. Today her achievements and determination have made her one of the most recognizable women bus drivers from India.

M Vasanthakumari: Asia’s First Woman Bus Driver From India

M Vasanthakumari, Asia's First woman bus driver from India. M Vasanthakumari drove a TNSTC bus

When M Vasanthakumari first applied for a bus driver’s job with the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), the officials shrugged in disbelief.

It was back in 1993 and very few men in India could digest the sight of a woman driving a bus. She was repeatedly told that there were hardly any women bus drivers in the world and that she should give up her hopes of being a women bus driver from India.

“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 over the phone. 

But with her determination and perseverance, she ended up bagging the job of a bus driver with the TNSTC. The rest as we all know is history.

She was not only TNSTC’s first women bus driver from India but also Asia’s first women bus driver from India.

The winner of Raindrops Women Achiever Award 2016, M Vasanthakumari, earned her name in the Asia Book of Records as Asia’s first women bus driver.

She retired from her in 2017 but remains one of the most celebrated women bus drivers from India.

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