The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) may soon become the only force in the country in which women personnel account for half its strength at the border.
The ITBP has decided to recruit women constables and officers in large numbers and give them 30-50 per cent representation as far as manning of border outposts is concerned.
The development is significant not just because it would bring about the highest representation of women in combat role in any force, but also because the job of ITBP personnel is a demanding one.
Guarding the India-China border, majority of the ITBP personnel are deployed in the high reaches of the Himalayas with several of their border outposts situated at more than 17,000 feet, where temperatures drop to below -40 degrees Celsius.
ITBP Director General Krishna Chaudhary said, “We have decided to have more women in the force. We are also committed to giving them combat roles. In fact, we have decided that we will try to have 50 per cent representation of women in our strength at all border BoPs. In cases where it is not possible, we will ensure it is at least over 30 per cent.”
At just over 2 per cent, women have the worst representation in the ITBP. At present, there are 1,661 women in the 90,000-strong force. The force is training a special contingent of 500 ‘mahila’ constables who will take position at the border by early next year.
“Once a commando is trained, he/she is equally capable to discharge the responsibility that ITBP demands. We will have to create some infrastructure and have provisions for soft postings for child care. But that should not deny what is due to the women of the force,” said Chaudhury.
The ITBP also wants to begin induction of women at command levels, i.e. beginning from assistant commandant. So far, women were not recruited in command levels in the force.
“We have written to Union Public Service Commission to give women officers from this year onward. This will open doors for them to become assistant commandants and lead battalions in the long run,” he said. “We have also requested the government to sanction 10 new battalions so that we can have more units,” he added.
Aiming to bolster its presence along the Sino-India border, the ITBP will also create 52 new posts and deploy about 8,000 troops along this sensitive frontier. Chaudhury said that the defence ministry has given its consent and the matter is awaiting home ministry’s approval.