New Delhi, May 15: Border guarding force SSB, the first paramilitary to have women combatants in its ranks, is drawing a plan to further enhance their numbers at its forward posts on Nepal and Bhutan frontiers.
The plan would also envisage enhancing troop welfare activities and facilities for jawans and officers who guard the two open Indian frontiers which not only witness heavy civilian movement but are also notorious for instances of drug smuggling, human trafficking and other cross-border crimes.
Newly-appointed Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) chief Archana Ramasundaram, the first women chief of a paramilitary in the country, said that the force is planning to further "enhance the number of women personnel" at border out posts and engage them further in operational frontier duties.
"We are working on a comprehensive plan to effectively not only enhance the number of women in the hardcore combat duties but also to ensure that additional facilities are provided to all troops, both men and women, at their place of duty," the DG said.
She said the force is also working to achieve the goals as stipulated in a recent government directive to take up the number of the female workforce to 33 per cent of the total strength in border guarding forces -- SSB, Border Security Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
"We already have sanction for raising 21 new women companies (about 2,100 personnel). That work is in process. Simultaneously, we are also working to create the required infrastructure for the troops in border areas, especially with regard to women personnel," she said.
Ramasundaram said currently the women personnel of the force, most of them in the rank of constables, are not only undertaking patrols along the two borders that they guard but are also part of the border 'interaction teams' where personnel attired in smart 'Safari suits' frisk, check documents and help people who cross over to India from the two neighbouring countries.
"After taking over the command of the force, I have travelled to many locations and interacted with my troops including women personnel and I felt we can expose them to more operational duties," the DG said.
The SSB at present has about 1,000 women personnel in its combat ranks after they were first inducted into the force in 2007. The force secures the 1,751 km-long Indo-Nepal border and the 699 km Indo-Bhutan border.