CHANDIGARH: The Kharkan camp of the Border Security Force (BSF), 150 km from here, witnessed history being created as 178 women recruits were inducted into the BSF for guarding international borders, on Saturday.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who attended the passing out parade, said,” It is a great privilege to be here. There are many constables in the country but no one can take away from you the special pride, as you are the first batch of women constables in the BSF. You all have an important role to play.”
BSF Director General M.L. Kumawat termed the passing out of the women recruits as a ‘historical day’, “It is a matter of pride that the BSF has thrown open its doors for women. It is a historical day for us.” The battalion is part of the 29 sanctioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs for the BSF as part of its expansion plan and nearly 8,500 applications were received for these 700 posts. Around 35,000 personnel will be inducted by the paramilitary force in the next four years.
They might not be taking on combat positions straightaway but women guards of the BSF will soon be deployed in Punjab villages along the 553-km fenced border between India and Pakistan. The women, along with their male counterparts, will carry out search and frisking at check posts, immigration points and trade routes along the borders which the force guards. “The women component is essentially needed for the force as our duty of guarding borders involves frisking women travellers besides other relevant duties,” Mr. Kumawat said. He added that the deployment of the battalion would be of great help in checking narcotics-related crimes since women were increasingly being used as couriers in trans-border narcotics smuggling.
Residents of border villages, who have their agricultural land across the Indo-Pak border were the happiest as farmers are allowed to go beyond the fence only for a few hours every day (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to cultivate their land after strict checking.
“This will make life easier for us. Going to our own fields across the fence through border gates was a major harassment, especially for women-folk,” one farmer living near Kahangarh said. Since going across the fence to their own fields involved frisking and other restrictions, many rural women from border areas had stopped going since the fence came up in early 1990s. The BSF had over the years been facing problems in frisking women accompanying farmers across the fence. So far the BSF had been taking the help of village headmen to send women near the fence gates to frisk other women going beyond the fence.
The 178 women, most of them from small towns and villages, have already trained for 36 weeks and will now get specialised tips on advanced combat for two weeks before taking up assignments along the 553-km-long fenced India-Pakistan border in Punjab.
Sandeep Ghuman, one of the five recruits who won a medal for her performance during training, said that at the thought of being the first women in this job crucial to India’s security was very exciting, “when I think about guarding the international border. I get more eager to join my duty. We have got extensive physical training like drill, camp training, security duties, handling natural calamities and intelligence and vigilance training.”
The proud parents present at the parade also expressed their happiness, “I am feeling very happy and it is a great privilege that BSF invited us for this passing out parade. Now we want our daughter to become a senior officer in BSF,” Kulwant Singh, from Dhardeo village in Amritsar district, around 60 km from the Attari-Wagah border, said.
While majority of the new women recruits are from Punjab, those passing out on Saturday included young women from West Bengal and Assam also. Most of the recruits are in the 18 to 22 age group. Among the new recruits, 14 are post-graduates, 22 graduates and 128 studied up to Class 12. The recruits include 25 sportswomen and 11 National Cadet Corps (NCC) volunteers.
The recruits were trained in weapons and explosives handling, physical training, drill, map reading, field craft, border management and given knowledge about all major laws including the Indian Penal Code (IPC), customs, passport and immigration.