Last week, after she drove the state transport bus from Saswad to Nira, a distance of about 35 km, Archana Atram (30) became the first woman driver in the history of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC). Although the MSRTC had been reserving seats for women for all posts, including drivers, for a long time, they would remain vacant and later get allotted to male job seekers.
Atram is among six women drivers who have joined the MSRTC staff last week. She hails from a village in Kinwat taluka in Nanded district.
“When I had joined the training in Pune, soon after the pandemic was over, I couldn’t even ride a bicycle. I did not know what a clutch or a gear or an accelerator was. My trainer trained me from scratch. Now, I am driving a bus and it has been an amazing journey,” she shared. She said that her family comprises her father, two brothers and a sister-in-law. Her mother passed away but her brothers supported her in her ambitions.
As per Depot Manager Pravin Gaikwad, all the employees are extremely happy to have her in the team and have been congratulating her. “We are fortunate to work with her. It’s not easy for a woman to drive such a heavy vehicle for so long, but she has been doing her job greatly,” he further said.
Recently, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Women’s Commission Chief Rupali Chakankar had shared encouraging words along with a video of Atram driving a bus.
“Another glass ceiling broken! Archana Atram creates history by becoming the first woman driver of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation,” Fadnavis had written on Twitter.
Congratulating Archana on behalf of the Commission, Chakankar’s tweet said, “it’s your responsibility to drive the ST passengers safely to their home now”. Replying to the same, NCP general secretary of Minority department, Mumbai, Ibrahim Farooqi wrote, “Many many congratulations”.
In 2012, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) had reserved 86 seats for women drivers but couldn’t fill them as they received no application. As per officials, the main hurdle was the eligibility criteria of having an experience of driving heavy vehicles for four years.
In 2019, the criteria was changed and 150 women driver-cum-conductors were selected for the job of which six, including Atram, were assigned driving responsibilities. The induction process was delayed due to the pandemic and once it was over, they underwent training for one year.
Sandip Kolate Patil, who works as a conductor with Atram, described her as a hardworking woman. “It’s good to see a woman driver in MSRTC. It’s a challenging field and there are hardly any women drivers within or outside MSRTC,” he said.