FORTIFYING INDIAN COAST GUARD “WOMEN OFFICERS”

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Port Blair, Jan 31: In the modern world, there are no domains of work that women haven’t delved into. Male dominated work place has crumbled under the power of the woman – her spirit and energy. The Indian Armed Forces, which for long was considered a male dominated workplace, now has confident, bold women, moulding into every role and setting examples for everyone.
Women Officers have been part of Coast Guard since long, both as permanent and short service engagement. They have been able to prove their mettle in all spheres of Coast Guard except frontline surface operations till recent time.
Taking a cue from the Centre’s initiative to empower women by expanding their scope and representation in the armed forces, the ICG has attempted the unthinkable in last couple of years. Taking smart and enviable lead being the youngest of four services under the Ministry of Defence(MoD), the Indian Coast Guard is deputing women Officers for platforms deployed in forward area and like Aircraft & Hovercraft.
To begin with, sanitising areas prone to terrorists sneaking into Gujarat, the ICG undertakes aerial surveilance of the sensitivel Indo-Pak maritime boundary line, where in women crew is common as on date. Many at times, ICG is also deputing an all-women crew consisting of a pilot, co-pilot and an observer for such missions. The crew scans the seas for signs of intrusion and maintains a strict vigil over the north Arabian Sea.
Question arises! Is there a difference when they operate a flight like this, where all those on board are women? Not really! From pursuing terrorists to fighting crime and pollution to aiding the stricken at sea, the team comprising women crew, does it all. On these fronts, these brave women Officers are not just dealing with poachers and illegal fishermen only but terrorism as well.
Today, In a major step towards empowering women and greater gender parity, the Indian Coast Guard is not only deploying them on Aircraft but also on Hovercrafts, based at sensitive North-Western, North-Eastern and Southern fronts, namely Gujarat, West Bengal in combat roles, wherein they patrol the country’s sensitive maritime zone near the borders with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Several women officers posted on board the Air Cushion Vehicles, popularly known as hovercrafts, in the Coast Guard are trained to handle all types types of situations including interception of suspicious boats used by poachers, smugglers and intruders.
We actually learnt it from a message where our superiors sought women officers to volunteer for operations at sea. It was a golden opportunity which I instantly knew I didn’t want to miss,” a statement given by young women Assistant Commandant before embarking for her maiden frontline deployment in North Western sector(Gujarat).
On Similar lines, the women Officer on North Eastern sector(West Bengal) stated “This is something we have never seen or done. It is tough. But I know what I want and I know it will come. Now when I walk with my male counterparts, I feel equal. They do the toughest of jobs. In some time I am sure we will be on bigger ships also.”
The aim of training and deploying these Coast Guard women Officers is to handle all missions under the Coast Guard charter including boarding suspicious vessels, chasing such boats in the high seas or catching contraband smugglers there.
In the modern day of electronic warfare, it’s more about overcoming stress in warfare than physical combat. It has been proven scientifically that women handle stress better and are also mentally tougher. This is not to undermine a woman’s physical capability.
Women have done extremely well in physical training as well. In the first few batches at the armed forces training academies several women displayed more endurance and some even outran their male counterparts in cross-country runs and long distance marches. They carry on this tradition and keep setting new records.
Most countries employ women in various roles in their armed forces but only a handful, including Australia, Germany, Israel and the United States, have allowed them to take on fighting, or combat, roles.
These welcome steps indeed will gear up services entire ethos and structure ensuring further integration of women officers in combatstreams seamlessly with due finesse and competence. The era of debate and indecision on this subject is over, and the time has now come to prepare and plan adroitly for the enlarged role of women officers in our gallant forces. I am sanguine that given a fair chance and level playing field women of India will script a golden chapter of valour and devotion to the forces and set an example for many to emulate.

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