While the number isn’t as impressive as you’d like to think, but not only does India have the highest percentage of women commercial pilots in the world, it is also more than double that of the global average. According to the data released by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots in 2018, the percentage of women commercial pilots in India is 12.4%, while the global percentage is only 5.4%. The data also revealed some statistics worth noting—India has 1,092 women pilots, 385 of whom are captains. Pilots like Anjna Singh, Shruthi Laju, Jassi Kapoor, and Rashmi Sharma are some of the many Indian women commercial pilots that touch the sky and break barriers every day. The newest addition to India’s force of women pilots is Anupriya Madhumita Lakra, a 27-year old from Odisha’s Maoist-affected Malkangiri district.
Niranjan Bisi, Tribal leader and president of Odisha Adivasi Kalyan Mahasangha, also praised Lakra. “In a district that is yet to see a railway line, it is a matter of pride for tribals there that a local woman will now fly a plane,” Bisi said.
What’s more impressive is that Anupriya is also the first tribal woman from Odisha to become a commercial pilot. Anupriya, an Oraon tribeswoman, will soon be joining Indigo Airlines as a co-pilot. She went to a missionary school in Malkangiri town and then went on to study engineering at a government-run college in Bhubhaneshwar. It was her passion for flying that led to her quitting engineering halfway and joining the Government Aviation Training Institute (GATI).
Anupriya’s story, though, is inspirational through and through. 22.95 per cent of Odisha’s 4.2 crore population are tribals and Malkangiri records the highest percentage of them in the state. Although Odisha’s literacy rate is 73%, only 41.20 per cent tribal women in Odisha are literate, therefore it is no surprise that Lakra’s achievements are truly remarkable.
Her father, Mariniyas Lakra, a police constable in Malkangiri, spoke to the Hindustan Times about the problems that the family experienced while putting Anupriya through aviation school and how, despite the lack of resources, he didn’t want to keep his daughter from fulfilling her dreams. “Though it was difficult for me to fund her pilot training, I took loans and got help from relatives. I always ensured that my daughter gets an education in the field she wanted to.” Anupriya’s mother, Jimaj Yashmin Lakra, a homemaker, added, “We also had to take loans to meet her study expenses for over 7 years. She had to appear in several examinations to get the commercial pilot’s licence. But we never wanted her to stop dreaming.” Lakra’s parents and her brother currently live in a decrepit house in Malkangiri.
“We are happy that she has become what she always dreamt of. I want my daughter to be a source of inspiration for all girls. I urge all parents to support their daughters.”
Many a congratulation soon started pouring in for the young pilot. Odisha’s Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik took to Twitter to congratulate Lakra, calling her ‘a role model for several girls‘. Niranjan Bisi, Tribal leader and president of Odisha Adivasi Kalyan Mahasangha, also praised Lakra. “In a district that is yet to see a railway line, it is a matter of pride for tribals there that a local woman will now fly a plane,” Bisi said. Lakra also appeared to be the talk of the town online, with local media organisations like Odisha TV and Odisha Diary covering her recent achievement, and national media houses like NDTV, Hindustan Times, and The Quint too, reported the news.
At a time when Adivasis still struggle to fight for their rights and create spaces where they aren’t oppressed, Anupriya, is especially a beacon of hope and a symbol of strength for Adivasi women all over India.
Her achievements are certainly not an easy feat. Her mother, Jimaj, too, is proud of all that her daughter has managed to achieve. “We are happy that she has become what she always dreamt of. I want my daughter to be a source of inspiration for all girls. I urge all parents to support their daughters,” she said.
Also read in Hindi: अनुप्रिया मधुमिता लाकड़ा : कहानी पहली आदिवासी महिला के कमर्शियल पायलट बनने की !
Featured Image Source: Odisha Diary