Surekha Yadav is an Indian train driver who is known for being Asia’s first female loco pilot. In 2023, she became the first woman to operate the Vande Bharat Express, a semi-high-speed train.
Surekha Yadav was born on 2 September 1965 (age 57 years; as of 2022) in Satara, Maharashtra. She did her schooling at St. Paul’s Convent School, Satara, Maharashtra. Soon after completing her higher secondary education, she took vocational training and later, pursued a Diploma in Electrical Engineering at Government Polytechnic, Karad, Satara, Maharashtra.
Height (approx.): 5′ 3″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Surekha Yadav’s father, Ramchandra Bhosale, was a farmer. Surekha’s mother’s name is Sonabai. She has four siblings; Surekha is the eldest among them.
Husband & Children
In 1990, Surekha Yadav got married to Shankar Yadav, a police inspector in the Government of Maharashtra. The couple has two sons, Ajinkya and Ajitesh, who are engineering students at Mumbai University. In an interview, Surekha talked about her husband, Shankar Yadav, and said,
Yes, my husband supported me throughout my career. He is one of the main reasons why I could reach this level today. It does become easier if your family supports your career choices. First, you need to figure out what you want to do in life and stick to it with hard work and dedication. Seeing your passion and determination, your family is bound to support you eventually.”
Soon after pursuing a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, Surekha was looking for a full-time job opportunity and came across a job vacancy for an assistant driver at the Indian Railways. Later, she gave a written test and interview at the Railway Recruitment Board, Mumbai, and was selected. In an interview, she talked about this and said,
It’s the most ordinary story you’ll ever hear. I had only completed my diploma in electrical engineering. Just like most other students, I was looking for a full-time employment opportunity. Word got around that the Indian Railways had a vacant position for an assistant driver and the requirement stated ‘diploma in any faculty’ were welcome to apply.”
In 1986, she joined the Indian Railways as a trainee assistant driver at the Kalyan Training School, Mumbai; she received training for six months. In 1989, she started working as a regular assistant driver for a freight train. The first local goods train that she piloted was numbered L-50, which runs between Wadi Bunder and Kalyan, Maharashtra; she was assigned the task of checking the running condition of the train’s engine and the signals. In 1996, she was assigned as a goods train driver. She worked as a goods train driver from 1996-2009. In 2010, she became a ghat driver on the Western Ghat Railway Line. In 2021, on the occasion of Woman’s Day, she was assigned to drive a special train from Mumbai to Lucknow with an all-woman crew. In 2023, she became the first woman to operate the Solapur-CSMT Vande Bharat Express train.
Vande Bharat – powered by Nari Shakti.
Smt. Surekha Yadav, the first woman loco pilot of Vande Bharat Express. pic.twitter.com/MqVjpgm4EO
— Ashwini Vaishnaw (@AshwiniVaishnaw) March 13, 2023
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In 1998, she was conferred Jijau Puruskar (1998).
- In 2001, she was awarded Women Achievers Award by the Lion Clubs.
- In 2001, she was conferred by the National Commission for Women in New Delhi.
- In 2002, she was honoured with The Lokmat Sakhi Awards.
- In 2004, she was awarded Sahyadri Hirkani Award.
- In 2005, she received the Prerna Purushkar.
- In 2011, she was honoured with the GM award for first lady loco pilot in Indian Railways.
- In 2011, she was awarded the Women Achievers award by Central Railways.
- In 2013, she has bestowed the RWCC Best Women Award.
- In 2018, President Ram Nath Kovind honoured Surekha with the First Ladies Award at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.
- According to Surekha Yadav, initially, she never thought of pursuing a career as a Loco pilot. She wanted to pursue further education in mathematics, earn a B.Ed degree, and become a teacher; however, after she landed a job at Indian Railways, she decided to pursue her career in the railways.
- In an interview, Surekha said that since her childhood days, she was inspired by the courage and bravery of Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi.
- On International Women’s Day in 2011, she was named Asia’s first woman train driver to run the Deccan Queen from Pune to CST; the train route from Pune to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) is known as one of the most difficult train routes.
- During an interview, Surekha shared one of the moments when she felt proud to be a woman. She said,
The first time, when I drove a train as a driver, that would be the moment when I felt proud to be a woman.”
- In 1991, Surekha was featured in the television show Hum Bhi Kisise Kum Nahi.
- According to Surekha, her most memorable train journey as a Loco pilot was in 2018, when she drove a passenger train from Mumbai to Pune. In an interview, she talked about this and said,
In 2018, I drove a passenger train from Mumbai to Pune. That would be my most memorable journey, as I drove the train through many difficult turns and the entire route was scenic. It was an all-female staff on that train too.”