New Delhi: Women soldiers of the Indo Tibetian Border Police (ITBP) are filled with pride as India turns 70. As the nation celebrates Independence day, these women have become a part of a small revolution at the Sino-Indian border. They added feather in forces’ cap by shattering an important male bastion and by being deployed on the front of the volatile border.
It is for the first time since independence that the India women combat soldiers unfurled the national flag at forward post. Nealy 640 kilometers away from the national capital Delhi, 20 women soldiers part of 19th Battalion of ITBP took charge of the post early morning today at Thangi post in Kinnaur district.
Shivani Aggarwal, a young 23-year-old sub-inspector of 19th battalion, ITBP, who unfurled the flag told India Today, “It is with a great sense of pride, I unfurled the national flag. Women are equal to men in every sense, but in the force (ITBP), it is more true. We take all responsibility at the borders and today I am so proud that we are breaking all barriers.”
A dainty looking Heena Thakur, a 22-year-old hawaldar from Simla, now in Thangi post, said, “There is no difference between men and women. We face same hardship as the men, and our male counterparts support us. It is a proud moment for us, that women unfurled the flag at this important border.”
These 20 women are among 2000 soldiers of Mahila Contingent who were recently inducted in ITBP after 44 weeks of training in battle craft and mountain survival.
The commandant of 19th Battalion, ITBP, in Sarhan says with immense pride “Let the world know that women are here at such heights. They are doing equally good as men. These women soldiers work and guard with the same zeal morale. They are looking at volatile border just the way as our male soldiers do.”
Deployed in combat roles, ITBP women soldiers are proving their mettle at the Indo-China border. They are now manning 20 out of 176 Border Out Posts.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ guidelines, the Cental Armed Police Force need to induct 33 per cent women in workforce but in ITBP, the conditions are harsh, so only 15 per cent women are inducted and deployed.
ITBP will have to increase its strength from current 2000 to 10,000 to reach the target. But ITBP faces a tough challenge. They have asked the UPSC to induct women officers from the rank of Assistant Commadant, so that the force can fulfill another target of having an all woman post, again a first for any paramilitary force.
Many women officers have overcome personal and professional challenges to be a part of ITBP. Seema, a constable from Moradabad, says she is has five sisters and her father was in UP roadways. The family wanted her to be a teacher, but she fought her way to become a combat soldier. “Women are here to stay in the force,” she said.
Inspector Bhola Nath, who is set to retire this year, says “I have been in ITBP for 36 years, and now I see a huge change with women being deployed at such harsh battlefields. But women are conquering new heights every day, so this was bound to happen. Women are also sincere, and with training as tough as men. So it is a welcome step that women are reaching such forward post.”