Thursday, February 8, 2018

TNN | Updated: Feb 8, 2018, 

In Complete Control: Bhavna Gome on the train's console in Rajkot

RAJKOT: Besides the usual traffic, there is a huge crowd waiting near the railway crossing at Amrapali or Aerodrome Road on many days in a week. As the train arrives, the crowd cheers and waves to Bhavna Gome, the loco pilot who reciprocates with equal enthusiasm. Children are never bored of seeing her and their parents tell them how a woman has taken up a profession, which was mostly confined to the male bastion.
Bhavna (26), a native of Madhya Pradesh, is one of only two women loco pilots in Gujarat. Along with her, 33-year-old Sarita Khushwah is also piloting some of the major mail and express strains in the Rajkot division for last seven years.

Bhavna, a native of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, passed the railway recruitment exam in 2014 and got an appointment in 2016. "As a child, I always fantasized about driving a train. The sight of engine driver sitting on the console always excited me. Since then, I decided to become a loco pilot," said Bhavna.

Unlike many staffers, whose families have been with the railways for generations, no one from Bhavna's family worked in the railways. Her father has a small mobile shop at Ujjain.

"After completing my engineering in electronics and communication, I saw an advertisement for railway recruitment. I immediately decided to become a loco pilot and all this became possible because of my family's support," she told TOI.

She underwent two types of training in Udaipur and Ratlam — one for signalling and other in railway tracking system. In Ratlam, she was trained on loco engine working. After being posted in the Rajkot division as assistant loco pilot, she was assigned to drive goods trains and some local short-distance trains. For the past 7-8 months, she has been given the responsibility to drive mail and express trains on the Rajkot-Okha, Rajkot-Viramgam and Rajkot-Junagadh routes.

On her marriage plans, Bhavna said, "I have to work in night shifts too and assist male loco pilots. I will only marry a person who is comfortable with my profession and is understanding."

Talking about challenges, she said, "Many times, some passenger pulls the chain and the train halts even in the dead of the night. It is my responsibility to get down and walk up the tracks and coaches to handle such situations. But I have managed to handle these situations with the support of my colleagues and superiors."

On the other hand, Sarita is a little more experienced in piloting trains. A farmer's daughter from Seoni town near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, she took the railway exam in 2010 and that is how her journey on the tracks began.

"I used to discuss my plan to drive a train with my colleagues in engineering days. But they never took me seriously. But I have proved myself now and am happy that I took up the profession which I always dreamt of," 33-year-old Sarita told TOI.

Beginning with goods train in 2013, she now pilots all major trains like Saurashtra Mail, Saurashtra Janta, Somnath-Jabalpur Express and Saurashtra Express in the Rajkot division. "My aim is to pilot Rajdhani Express now," she said.

Sarita says women should not hesitate in taking up professions dominated by males. "I will always encourage girls to become loco pilots," she said.

Atul Kumar V S, senior section engineer of Rajkot division, said. "There are only two women loco pilots in Gujarat. We have created a special room for them to rest and complete formalities every day before starting the duty."


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