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‘Wanted to serve the nation’: In Rajasthan’s desert, women part of BSF team that guards border

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Tanot (Rajasthan): Patrolling the sensitive India-Pakistan border may be predominantly a male bastion, but a group of women have defied stereotypes and braved hurdles to take up the job of guarding the international border in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district. Guarding the border in the desert’s extreme weather conditions is a tough job but these women perform it with equal dedication, discipline and efficiency, a BSF official said.

Constable Nancy Devi Jat, a resident of Sikar in Rajasthan, defied her family’s opposition to join the forces 10 years ago.

“My parents wanted me to take up a cosy profession but once I got selected for the BSF, I went ahead, despite opposition from my parents,” she told PTI.

Her two male cousins were already in the force, but her family was against a girl choosing up the same job.

For Constable Archana Kashyap, a resident of Etawah in Uttar Pradesh, joining the force was a dream come true.

“There was nobody in my family in the forces, and since childhood, I wanted to serve the nation,” she said. Both maintained that the major challenge they faced while patrolling this sector of the border was the extreme weather conditions. At times, they also came across vipers, which are common here. “We are deployed on observation towers, and also for patrolling between border outposts. It becomes very difficult during summers when there are sandstorms,” Jat said.

During such situations they do the patrolling on camelbacks, she added.

“Duties are divided into four shifts and we do all the shifts, including night patrolling. Long duty hours and away from home for months is a deterrent for many women from joining the BSF,” Jat said.

Kashyap said, “When we are on duty, these issues do not matter as the protection of the nation is our top priority.”

Commandant of the BSF’s 166 battalion that guards the border in this stretch, Virendra Pal Singh, said that women are deployed in each battalion in the sector, with each section having at least one female personnel.

“The deployment is made according to the requirement in each area. More women are posted in areas that require gate management with agricultural activities on both sides of the fence,” he said.

In this area, 36 women have been deployed.

In this particular stretch, the population is sparse on both sides and there is no agricultural activity, Singh said.

“The female personnel perform all sorts of duties and do not enjoy any special grace,” he said.

“They only stay in separate barracks but have their meals in the common mess, and go through the usual rigorous physical exercises,” he added.

Singh said that their performance is exemplary and “neither we nor they have any complaints”.

The female personnel also asserted that they do not want any special treatment but “want to be one and integral part of the BSF”.

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