As she was driven down the 50-metre stretch from her previous office to the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) headquarters to take charge of the border guarding force on Wednesday, Archana Ramasundaram realised that she was going to make history.
Ramasundaram is not just another SSB chief. She has broken the glass ceiling to become the first woman IPS officer to head any central police force. And there lies a big message for women elsewhere.
“If I being a middle-class woman can reach here, it will not be difficult for anyone. Everybody has dreams, they just need an opportunity,” the affable but usually-reticent Archana Ramasundaram nee Mishra said, dedicating her achievement to “the women of India”.
After another round of official briefing on the deployment of the force along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders that the SSB guards, Ramasundaram suggested there was a mindset against women back in the eighties when she got into the IPS. But she added this attitude was on the wane. It wasn’t the IPS — but like most civil service aspirants, the IAS — that was her first choice. The IPS came next.
“I was prepared for it... and my father, a judicial officer in Rajasthan, completely supported the decision,” Ramasundaram — who grew up in Jaipur where her father was posted — said.
“You had to ask for a field posting when your male colleagues did not,” Ramasundaram, who married an IAS officer S Ramasundaram, said. “I do not find any difficulty in women taking on important roles in core policing jobs. What matters is basically your capacity to handle a particular task. I don’t think that gender really matters much,” the officer — who had decided to speak on her appointment only after she took charge — said.