INS Chilka undergoes big changes to welcome women Agniveers

INS Chilka, the Indian Navy’s basic training establishment in Odisha, is undergoing a major shift to take on the first batch of women Agniveer trainees who will be joining the Navy soon.

The sprawling lakeside campus in Odisha is being transformed with a raft of facilities that will make life easier for the 600 women who are on the threshold of a naval career, a top admiral said.

“While women trainees will have separate residential and dining areas, they will carry out all academic and training activities alongside their male counterparts,” he said.

The navy’s first Agniveers are expected to begin training at INS Chilka by November 21. The training establishment has 50 officers in different roles, including 13 women officers.

From earmarking two new accommodation blocks exclusively for women to installing sanitary pad vending and disposal machines, creating a separate dining area, to hiring women staff, the training establishment is becoming women-friendly, said Vice Admiral MA Hampiholi, who heads the Southern Naval Command and is monitoring the changes at the training facility.

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“Specific changes have been made to cater to different needs of women trainees, including privacy. We took inputs from serving women officers to understand those needs before initiating the changes at INS Chilka,” he said.

Other changes at INS Chilka include setting up more toilets for women trainees, installation of security cameras and hiring women as matrons, swimming instructors and safai karamcharis, said a senior navy officer posted at INS Chilka.

“The women officers will mentor the women trainees, take care of their needs and ensure a smooth transition,” said Hampiholi.

The women sailors will be inducted in all 29 branches and trades of the navy, and will be given warship assignments too.

Some of these women, who will be inducted as Agniveers early next year, are likely to be deployed on India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, the largest warship to be built in the country and likely to be commissioned on September 1 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kochi.

Gradually, women combat officers will be inducted in Visakapatinam, Chennai and Kochi naval bases by 2024. The Kochi-headquartered Southern Naval Command is responsible for the whole gamut of training for the navy.

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Almost a million applicants, including more than 82,000 women, had registered for recruitment into the navy under the Agnipath model for short-term induction of soldiers into the three services, and the selection process is underway. These applicants are competing for 3,000 jobs in the navy, with women expected to account for 20% (600) of the first intake under the new recruitment model.

Inducting women as sailors is a welcome and progressive step, and the navy has shown remarkable foresight by planning the changes at INS Chilka, said Commander Gauri Mishra (retd).

“It has worked everything out in minute detail to make the training facility women-friendly. Kudos to the navy,” said Mishra, who is a skydiver and has served as a flag lieutenant to a navy chief.

INS Chilka sent teams to training establishments of the Corps of Military Police, the Border Security Force, and the Central Industrial Security Force (all of which train women), and the inputs gathered were distilled before finalising the training regimen and other changes, said Hampiholi.

“There will be no difference in the training curriculum for men and women. However, the mandatory physical standards to be achieved by them will be different in line with the practices followed by training establishments worldwide,” he said.

The navy is the only service recruiting women in the personnel below officer rank (PBOR) cadre in the first phase of Agnipath.