Kolkata: It requires a lot of grit, passion and sacrifice for a young woman to serve the Indian Armed Forces. Not only this, rigorous training and a strong mental strength to perform at par with the male counterparts is something that keeps testing these women in all quarters.
On International Women's Day, let's bring the focus on five fabulous women officers of the Indian Coast Guard, who are deployed at the remotest Islands of Andamans and are excelling at all these and more.
Surrounded by dense forest in the middle of the sea at Campbell Bay Island, 537 kilometres from Port Blair, Assistant Commandant Preeti Poswal works round the clock to secure one of the most strategically significant islands of the country.
She is the second in command at Campbell Bay and a key officer to provide all kinds of 'logistic support for all operational units'. With China upping its presence in the region, her posting at this island is of great significance with the Malacca Strait - an important 'choke-point' in the southeast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands falling under her jurisdiction.
A great shooter trained in physical combat and capable of operations in rough sea – Preeti's operational acumen comes handy in fine tuning decisions in deploying Coast Guard assets for maritime operations, including medical evacuations from international ships.
A native of Meerut, Preeti is also involved in social work at far-flung islands of Nicobar like Makachua (Little Nicobar), Munak (Nancowry Group), Kamorta.
“It is a matter of pride to serve my country in one of the remotest islands in India – Campbell Bay. Daily challenges always excite me to work harder and take me closer to my dream of being in the Armed Forces,” she said.
Assistant Commandant Avantika Suryavanshi is posted at the Coast Guard's Air Enclave at Port Blair. She is an expert pilot, who is responsible for securing Exclusive Economic Zone in Andamans.
Her expertise in flying aircraft made the headlines in 2016, particularly for carrying out a safe single engine landing. She was decorated with the Director General Indian Coast Guard Commendation as hers was the maiden single engine landing by a lady pilot displaying maturity and skills, which far exceeded what was expected of her with a flying experience of only 600 hours.
Posted in Port Blair, at present she is responsible for aerial surveillance and keeps an eye on ‘uninvited foreign guests’. Avantika, who hails from Gujarat, is comfortable with all kinds of latest weapons attached to the aircraft and she is known as one of the finest officers when it comes to mid-air operations (of any kind).
“My job is to protect the sea despite being in the air. It gives me a wide and clear perspective. There can no other rewarding feeling than to protect not just the Indian waters, but also these remote and beautiful emerald isles of Andaman and Nicobar. If ever asked, I’ll always say it with great sense of pride and satisfaction,” said Avantika.
For Assistant Commandant-rank officer, Dharakeshwari Rajendran, playing with INSAS is a passion. She loves reading and handling the different kinds of weapons available with the Armed Forces.
She is assigned to keep surveillance along the Maritime Boundary at various places in Andamans on a regular basis and she underwent a number of sub courses and has completed the Coast Guard Law and Operation Course. She is very efficient on ground as well as on sea operations and has showed outstanding talent in some rescue and operations against poachers.
She attended rigorous camps at INA as the section commander and is also good at firing INSAS.
She said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do, which you could have done. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour and catch the trade winds in your sails to explore your dream and discover. My only wish is to face the extreme challenges every day. Without these challenges, my life would be nothing.”
To keep a close watch on air space violation in the archipelago, Coast Guard Air Enclave at Port Blair has one of the finest officers — Deputy Commandant Nidhi Jaiswal.
The officer had served more than four and half year in Daman, which is the premier air station of Indian Coast Guard with its own aerodrome. She is known to have maintained the highest standards of flight safety in a time-bound manner.
Nidhi is progressively and persistently focused on issues of concern, especially those pertaining to Aircraft Act Violation, enhancing airspace for aircraft operation, setting up of human-friendly infrastructure for round-the-clock availability of aeronautical information at Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
When contacted, she said, “The Indian Ocean is the key to the seven seas in the 21st century. The destiny of the world will be decided in these waters and I am proud to be a part of the force that protects these waters, the Island, its islanders and the indefinite treasures it has.”
Last but not the least is Assistant Commandant Deviga S, who is posted at THE Coast Guard Regional Headquarters in Port Blair.
Deviga has been enthusiastically leading her male colleagues from the front, for meeting all challenges along with keeping their morale high.
Besides her responsibilities as a Coast Guard officer, she is actively involved in several social events to educate the girl child in remote islands like Car Nicobar, Campbell Bay, Katchal, Kamorta etc.
“It is the question of identity that I am interested in the empowerment that one has taken to decide whom they want to be and how they should be recognized by the world. Well, we compete every day! Not with the other gender, not with the society, but with ourselves, to make bold decisions. Comparing a woman with a gentleman shall be the last thing I would do. How do I compare the Sun and Water? But that's what has motivated me. I was compared, therefore, I had to compete. And here I am, with the identity I have chosen for myself,” Deviga said.