Two women hovercraft pilots are part of security cover that the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has extended over the Gangasagar Mela site, where lakhs of devotees take a holy dip during Makar Sankranti, its DIG I J Singh said Monday. Deputy commandants Sneha Kathayat and Shruti Mohan Jainpur, posted at Haldia port station, are from the first and second batches of women combat officers in the Coast Guard, Singh told newspersons here. They are from an elite group of seven women hovercraft pilots who are working shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts in the ICG, the DIG, chief staff officer (operations) of Coast Guard of North East region, said here.
Talking about her experience at the Coast Guard, Jainpur, whose father is a retired scientist of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, said, "It is amazing, it is something that brings the best out of you." She also explained that she will be looking after ICG security operations for the first time. "The experience is special as it will be my first opportunity to work for security, search and rescue operations of Coast Guard at the Gangasagar Mela, one of the largest annual religious congregations in the country," Jainpur, who has been commanding hovercraft since June 2018, said.
Deputy Commandant Sneha Kathayat, the other woman pilot, joined the force in 2011 and has been serving on the seas since 2015. Kathayat, from the path-breaking first batch of ICG's women pilots, said the mela provides an excellent occasion to prove a person's worth and capabilities. "I am the first from my family to have joined the forces and enjoying every bit of the experience," the deputy commandant, daughter of school teachers at Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, said.
Devotees from across the country visit Sagar Island to take a dip at the confluence of Hooghly river and the Bay of Bengal during the annual Gangasagar Mela on Makar Sankranti. The Coast Guard has placed a sizeable number of its assets at Gangasagar to ensure foolproof security at the religious fest, Singh said. "We have stationed an offshore patrol vessel, two fast patrol vessels, three hovercrafts and two helicopters for security, search and rescue operations," he said. Two Dornier aircraft are also making regular sorties of the mela site, Singh said.
"The force is maintaining electronic surveillance at the mela site. We have a radar station in Haldia which monitors the entire coast of Haldia and Sagar Island," Singh said. He clarified that movements at the mela premises were being monitored live 24 hours a day through a surveillance system, which is also a part of the coastal security network. "While the 107-metre long offshore patrol vessel ICG Sujoy, with a helicopter on board, is keeping a watch on the deep seas for any threat, the fast patrol vessels and hovercrafts are keeping a close watch at the bathing site to ensure that no untoward incident happens," he said. The Coast Guard has also deployed a life-saving rapid action team, comprising divers with rubber gemini boats at the mela site, to thwart any threat emanating from the sea or to save people from drowning in case of any exigency.
(With inputs from agencies.)