Meet Odisha’s first tribal commercial woman pilot

Anupriya Madhumita Lakra

By Matters India Reporter

Malkangiri, September 9, 2019: Odisha’s Malkangiri district has another reason to draw media attention.

The Maoist-infested backward district has produced the first commercial pilot from the tribal women of the eastern Indian state.

Anupriya Madhumita Lakra, who will join Indigo Airlines as a co-pilot in the second half of September, has proven that nothing is impossible if one has the courage, mindset and willingness to achieve one’s dreams.

The 27-year-old is the daughter of a police constable and member of the St. George Catholic Church, Malkangiri, a parish under the diocese of Rayagada. Her mother Jaman Yasmin, is a housewife.

Anupriya has set an example for other tribal girls of society, says Father Simon Eluvathingal, her former parish priest.

“She was so enthusiastic and determined to pursue her dream. Her parents were so much supportive, especially her mother,” the priest told Matters India on September 9.

Father Eluvathingal, who served the Malkangiri parish for three years, says he is “so happy to hear about her achievement.”

According to him, she has proved that if parents support their daughters, they can achieve anything. “It does not matter what background they come from,” he added.

Anupriya completed her schooling from Dipti Convent School in Malkangiri. When her family moved to Semiliguda she completed her twelfth grade at Jeevan Jyothi School.

It was during the time at an engineering college came up in Bhubaneswar, the state capital, some 480 km northeast of Semiliguda.

It was during her engineering student days that Anupriya realized her dream of becoming a pilot. She left engineering midway and took admission at Government Aviation Training Institute (GATI), Bhubaneswar, the first step she took to achieve her goal.

In 2012, Anupriya’s special training started after she successfully cleared the entrance exams in Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai.

Her mother Jaman Yasmin says they are extremely happy and proud that Anupriya is a pilot now.

“She has brought laurels to Malkangiri district. We had to take loans to meet her study expenses. However, we did what parents should do for their children and it is because of her hard work and dedication she has become a pilot,” says the woman, who is yet to get inside an aeroplane.

Her father Mariniyas, who lives in a dilapidated house in Malkangiri with his wife and son, recalls it was tough for them to provide whatever Anupriya needed during her training period since 2012.

“However, we are now very happy that she achieved her goal and made us proud,” the beaming father said.

He said he had to take loans and get help from relatives to fund his daughter’s pilot training. “I always ensured that my daughter gets an education in the field she wanted,” he added.

Anupriya’s mother Jimaj said despite meager 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.”

Odisha 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, too said Anupriya’s achievement has brought hope to 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,” he added.

Tribals form 22.95 percent of Odisha’s 42 million population. With 57.4 percent of the district as tribals, Malkangiri has the highest percentage of tribal population in Odisha. Though Odisha has a literacy rate of 73 percent, only 41.20 percent of its tribal women are literate.

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