The 36-week training of the first batch of about 200 out of the 612 women recruits, all between 18 and 22 years of age, started at the Border Security Force’s (BSF) training camp at Kharkan village, 15 km from here, Monday. Classes for the remaining recruits will start later.
The women, 45 from West Bengal and the rest from Punjab, were gung-ho about not just the training programme but even postings in inhospitable terrain along the border where the BSF is stationed.
“This is a very happy moment for me. This is an active job and will give job security to me and my family,” Sandeep Ghumman, a graduate, said.
“Both my parents are in the police. The job with BSF should be interesting,” added another recruit, Kiranbir Kaur.
Taking pride in her new uniform, recruit Jyotibala of Punjab’s border district of Gurdaspur said: “I always wanted to serve my motherland. My dream has come true.”
The women will primarily be used along the 553 km international border between India and Pakistan, which has 300 gates along the electrified barbed wire fencing in Punjab.
“They will mainly be used to frisk women from villages along the international border who have to cross the fencing to cultivate land,” BSF’s Punjab frontier inspector general of police (IGP) Himmat Singh said here.
The women, instructed by two women from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), will be trained in weapons and explosives handling, physical training, drill, map reading, field craft, border management and given knowledge about all major laws including Indian Penal Code (IPC), customs, passport and immigration, he said.
The fencing, erected by India in the early 1990s to curb militants from entering Punjab from the Pakistan side, is about 500 metres to one kilometre from the international border inside Indian territory. This had placed fields of many farmers of border villages beyond the fence. The farmers are allowed to go beyond the fence only for a few hours everyday (from 10 a.m. to 4 pm) to cultivate their land. They are frisked every time.
The BSF, over the years, had been facing problems in frisking women accompanying farmers across the fence. Frisking is essential as a lot of smuggling, particularly of drugs, takes place at the border, BSF officials said.
Over 8,500 women had applied for the 685 posts of women guards with the BSF June this year. Of these, nearly 2,500 were short-listed and underwent physical tests as well as screening and a medical examination before being selected.