Seventy-six years after Prema Mathur became the first Indian Woman Commercial Pilot to fly a domestic airline in 1947, MM Jayashree achieved the distinction of becoming the first female pilot from the Baduga Community. The Baduga community, primarily found in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu and the adjoining areas of Karnataka and Kerala in southern India, is also known as the "Badagas" or "Badaga Gounder."
The Badugas have a unique culture, language, and social structure that distinguish them from other communities in the region. The community has witnessed upward mobility in recent years, with its members gaining footholds in the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy. However, MM Jayshree's accomplishment as the first pilot from the Baduga community serves as an inspiration.
Jayashree hails from the Kotagiri district in the Nilgiris region of Tamil Nadu. Her father, J. Mani, is a retired village administrative officer who supported her in her endeavour to become a commercial pilot, something unprecedented for the Baduga community.
In 2020, while working from home for an IT company, she began dreaming of becoming a pilot. To turn her dream into reality, she traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, where she completed 70 hours of flying. Although Jayshree is yet to obtain her commercial pilot license, she has already made her community proud. Satish Bhojan, a politician with ADMK in the Nilgiris region, posed with her with the caption, “Congrats Jayshree, the first woman pilot from our community.”
In 1936, Sarla Thukral became the first woman to obtain an aviation pilot's license in India. Since then, there have been intermittent breakthroughs in the field. Prema Mathur became the first Indian woman to fly for a domestic airline in 1947. Later, in 1956, Durba Banarjee became the first woman pilot of Indian Airlines. In 1990, Nivedita Jain (now Bhasin) became the youngest commercial airline captain in the world.
According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, India boasts the highest proportion of female pilots in the world, accounting for approximately 12.4% of all pilots. This figure is substantially ahead of countries like the U.S., where the ratio is 5.5%, and the U.K., where it stands at 4.7%."