Pathbreakers: Women in the Indian Railways

Meet some women who’ve had illustrious careers in the Indian Railways.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway workers (2018-03-01)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The empowerment of women is perhaps the most defining movement since the 20th Century. We hear inspiring stories of women who have made a mark in male-dominated roles, like in public life and government, as captains of industry and in sport. Every walk of life today has women leading, and their number is increasing with each passing year.

Ms. Valli checks the tickets of local passengers (2018-03-22)Nilgiri Mountain Railways

And yet, only 6-7% of the Indian Railways workforce comprises of women. Whatever the number today, the “first ladies", who took the plunge into the turbulence of male-dominated areas, need to be recognised. They were pioneers, intrepid possessing immense courage to break into this new domain.

Jaya Singh ChauhanHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Jaya Chauhan was the first woman officer in the Railway Protection Force, as part of its 1984 batch.

Initially working as an Administrative Officer in ONGC, her passion to serve the motherland and exploring unattained bastions compelled her to leave that comfortable job and jump into policing the railways.

Jaya not only did well in the railways, but also became the first woman Inspector General among the paramilitary forces in the country.

M. KalavathyHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

From the 1981 batch of rail aspirants, M. Kalavathy was inducted as the first female member of Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers.

M. KalavathyHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

She currently works as the Chief Signal Engineer, on the Southern Railway zone.

Kalyani ChadhaHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Before being inducted into railway services, in 1988, Kalyani Chadha spent four years at the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, in the Special Class Apprentice of the 1983 batch, at Jamalpur.

Kalyani ChadhaHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Kalyani's lead was followed by 13 women who are now in service and 10 more who are undergoing apprenticeship at Jamalpur.

Manju GuptaHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Manju Gupta, who is currently working as Divisional Rail Manager of Bikaner division, was the first female member of the Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers. After her induction, 14 more women followed Manju's example and entered the IRSEE.

Mona SrivastavaHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Part of the batch of 1998, Mona Srivastava was the first woman member to be inducted in Indian Railway Service of Engineers, which had till then been all-male.

Padmakshi RahejaHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

It was only in the beginning of this century, in 2002 to be precise, that Vijaylakshmi Viswanathan, a member of the 1967 batch, made it to the position of Financial Commissioner of the Indian Railways Board. Vijaylakshmi was also the first woman Divisional Rail Manager on the Indian Railways in the late 1990s.

It took almost two decades before the next male bastion was breached by a woman when Padmakshi Raheja was selected as a member of the 1974 batch of the Indian Railway Traffic Service. For the following five years, Padmakshi was the only woman in IRTS.

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