It took years of hard work for 44-year-old S Sandhya of Perumbalam in Alappuzha to earn a licence to operate passenger vessels. In fact, she is the first woman in Kerala who is now qualified (Syrang/Srank) to navigate and operate large vessels with a capacity of over 226 HP, a feat that has eluded women for centuries.
Sandhya, mother of two children, took all the pain and effort to take the licence to get a job as Srank which she loves the most. Though she got the licence in November 2022, she is yet to get a job offer. But Sandhya is so optimistic and says that an opportunity will come her way.
“I am really happy that I could get the licence. It’s not easy to manoeuvre large passenger boats in rivers and lakes. The road to obtaining the licence has been arduous but I overcame it and succeeded,” Sandhya told “Open Digest”.
Sandhya grew up on the shores of Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha travelling on boats. She decided to become a boat driver when she became fascinated about the vital role played by the Srank in safely ferrying people through lakes and rivers to different destinations.
“I had to study Kerala Inland Vessels (KIV) Rules 2010 which wasn’t easy. The test was at the port department office in Alappuzha in two segments. While the first involved driving and controlling boats, the second was a written test on the rules and regulations,” she said.
Sandhya who cleared the test on her first attempt had worked as a lascar for two years in a boat which is mandatory for applying for a Srank licence. Her husband Mani works as a head load worker in Food Corporation of India godown in Angamali. “I am really proud to have achieved this milestone,” she said, adding that if she could get a job as a Srank it would be a dream come true. “I am waiting for it and hope it will happen soon,” she said.