• Mon. May 27th, 2024

BRO since its inception in 1960 had only male officers due to the nature of task and isolated deployments for prolonged periods cutting roads in tough terrains under most treacherous weather conditions along our land borders. Two decades back, handful of women officers started joining but was employed in staff appointments only keeping in view the hazards of the ground tasks. Then a historical decision was taken by DGBR on 08 March 2021 to provide a gender neutral environment to women officers in line with current government’s theme of ‘Naari Sashaktikaran’ and first woman officer EE (Civ) Ms Vaishali S Hiwase was posted as Officer Commanding (OC) of a Road Construction Company (RCC). She took over her assignment on 28 April 2021 and was made responsible for one of the toughest roads of BRO, connecting Munshiyari to Milam glacier in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Soon after, EE (Civ) Ms Obin Taki was appointed as OC of an RCC for construction of roads and bridges in inhospitable Siang valley of Arunachal Pradesh.

Photo: Colonel Ponung Doming

Following the success of this initiative, an all women RCC was established at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district and Major Aaina Rana was given the command of this RCC on 30 August 2021. Notably, all three Platoon Commanders under her were also women officers. She was responsible for development of roads till Mana pass – the second highest pass in the country after Umlingla, perched at 18,478 feet. The RCC performed exceedingly well under her dynamic leadership. On 22 October 22, Prime Minister came to Mana village and laid the foundation stone for widening of this strategically important road till Mana.

Photo: Colonel Archana Sood

Colonel Navneet Duggal OC of a Field Workshop deployed in Kashmir valley also became the first EME officer to command a workshop in most difficult and challenging location, ensuring technical support to road construction activities in toughest terrain.*Lt Col (now Colonel) Snigdha Sharma* became the first women officer to head the Legal Cell in Headquarters of BRO. She efficiently managed over 700 court cases, upholding the organisation’s legal integrity. All these women officers’ success and singular achievements while heading their sub units, not only shattered gender barriers but also set new standards of excellence within BRO.

Photo: Colonel Navneet Duggal

Taking this initiative ahead, Col Archana Sood was appointed as Commander of a Task Force at Zero in Arunachal Pradesh in February 2023. She became first woman officer to lead a Task Force in BRO. She is doing a great job taking the roads ahead in Dibang valley of Arunachal Pradesh. In Jun 23, *Col Ponung Doming* was selected to head a Task Force at Hanle, Ladakh, which was shifted specially to handle some strategically very important BRO projects. She was given two more women officers in staff to assist her in undertaking construction of world’s highest road at 19400 feet in Chumar sector connecting Likaru – Migla – Fukche, world’s one of the highest fighter air base at Nyoma and Chushul – Dungti – Fukche – Demchok road along LAC under most trying conditions. Hanle Task Force is world’s highest construction agency located at 15000 feet. She is also responsible to maintain world’s highest road at Umlingla connecting Demchok to Chisumle.

BRO today firmly believes that women will always be active participants in the endeavour of Nation building. The multi-faceted approach of BRO towards Women Empowerment includes variety in employment roles, avenues to grow in gender neutral environment, access to proper healthcare, opportunities for adventure/sports and encouragement to develop holistically, as they play the lead roles in all walks of life. Celebrating “Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav,” BRO supported landmark women-led adventure activities, showcasing their strength and spirit in diverse expeditions. Highlights include a multidisciplinary expedition involving mountain trekking, white water rafting, and cycling, an all-women electric vehicle rally promoting environmental consciousness.

For the first time in the history of BRO, women were given command assignments. This was a game-changer, as women officers worked hard day and night to prove their mettle. These women officers have acted as trailblazers for other women to join BRO in larger number and in turn perform to best of their abilities. Their sincere efforts have not only accelerated project timelines but also served as an effective and inspiring model for other organisations to emulate. The government has been actively promoting gender parity and women’s empowerment. This push has been evident in various sectors, including defence and infrastructure development, where BRO plays a critical role.

( Lieutenant General Rajeev Chaudhry, VSM, is a retired Indian Army General noted for his distinguished career and contributions to the nation. He held the significant position of Director General of the Border Roads Organization where he led numerous infrastructural advancements.)

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