The 19-year-old girl from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district took the unusual step of driving an auto-rickshaw to tide over financial crisis in her family and pursue her higher education.
A student of MPC (Junior) College in Baripada, Mayurbhanj’s district headquarter about 250 km north of Bhubaneswar, Panda took the decision to drive an auto-rickshaw four months ago as her father’s meager income as a driver of a private bus was insufficient to support a family of six.
Panda’s elder sisters are graduates and younger brother is studying in class 4.
Following a month’s training, Panda started ferrying passengers in a second-hand auto-rickshaw gifted to her by a relative.
After college hours, Panda drives the auto-rickshaw for three hours between 3pm and 6pm and earns about Rs. 200 a day.
Initially, the unusual sight of a college girl driving an auto-rickshaw in the small town drew derisive remarks from some, but soon they were drowned in overall admiration for her gutsy stand.
“Panda is a inspiration for all girls. She has shown that nothing come in the way if one pursue one’s dream,” said Chittaranjan Mohapatra, the Panda family’s landlord.
As a token of appreciation, Mohapatra has stopped charging rent for the two rooms in his house where the family lives. And Arun Datta, one of Panda’s teachers in the college, has started giving her free tuition.
Panda has opted for economics, mathematics and statistics as subject and wants to be a mathematics professor.
Her elder sister, Rashmi Panda, wants to become an officer in the Indian Police Service.
Source: Hindustan Times