27-year-old from Odisha becomes first tribal woman to fly commercial plane
A 27-year-old tribal woman from Maoist-affected Malkangiri district of Odisha has become the first tribal from the state to become a commercial pilot.
Daughter of a police constable in Malkangiri district, Anupriya Madhumita Lakra will fulfill her lifelong ambition of becoming a pilot when she joins Indigo Airlines as a co-pilot sometime later this month.
Lakra’s father Mariniyas Larka, a police constable in Malkangiri and mother Jimaj Yashmin Lakra said their daughter has not only made the family proud, but the entire state.
“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,” said Mariniyas Lakra. Anupriya’s mother Jimaj said despite meagre resources she and her husband never stopped their daughter from dreaming big. “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,” said Jimaj, who lives in a dilapidated house in Malkangiri with her husband and son.
Lakra did not wish to speak.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik took to social media to congratulate Lakra. “I am happy with her achievement. She will be a role model for several girls,” said Patnaik.
Tribal leader and president of Odisha Adivasi Kalyan Mahasangha, Niranjan Bisi said Lakra, an Oraon tribeswoman, was not only the first tribal woman from Malkangiri, but Odisha. “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,” said Bisi.
Born and brought up in Malkangiri, Anupriya finished her matriculation from a missionary school in Malkangiri town and later did her higher secondary from a school in neighbouring Koraput district. In 2012, she was selected for admission in a government-run engineering college in Bhubaneswar, but after a few months of classes she realised that her true calling lay in becoming a pilot. She left engineering college and took admission at the Government Aviation Training Institute (GATI), Bhubaneswar.
Bearing the expenses at GATI was tough for Lakra’s father, but her uncles came to her aid. “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,” said Jimaj, who is yet to get inside an aeroplane.
Tribals form 22.95 per cent of Odisha’s 4.2 crore population. With 57.4 per cent of the district as tribals, Malkangiri has the highest percentage of tribal poplulation in Odisha. Though Odisha has a literacy rate of 73 per cent, only 41.20% of its tribal women are literate.