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Small-town girl makes it to army

Woman from Ahmednagar to go for officer training in Chennai next month

Seeta Ashok Shelke (23), who hails from the small town of Ahmednagar, has been selected to join the Officers Training Academy in Chennai in the first week of April this year. She will be commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Indian Army on successful completion of her training.

All gung-ho: Seeta Shelke

Her inspiration to join the army came when she was in the standard X, after she read an article on the success story of a lady officer. Internet-based research, various newspapers and magazines further helped her to source information regarding procedures on getting into the Indian Army.

"I am very excited about going to the academy. It is something that I have worked hard for and have finally reached to first step," Seeta said.

Being the first in the family to take up a career in the armed forces, she added, "My family was never skeptical about my capabilities or my safety. They believe in me and inculcate a sense of confidence that has brought me this far."

Seeta studied in a Marathi medium school in Javale until she was awarded a scholarship at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Ahmednagar from std VII and took great interest in sport activities at the academy.

"I always participated in all sports activities because I was curious about the games. I never excelled in any sport or made it to state or district levels," said Seeta, who is always up for a game of basketball or kabaddi.

She graduated in mechanical engineering from Pravara Rural Engineering College, Loni.

"I needed to have a graduate degree to qualify for the SSB examinations. I always knew my goal was to join the army so I did my graduation in mechanical engineering to help in my career ahead," she said.

Since her grasp of the English language was weak, Seeta brushed up her communication skills by reading. She also joined a training institute for SSB examinations in the city and approached Lt Col (Retd) Pradeep Brahmankar, Cdr P K Banerjee and Hrishikesh Apte for guidance on the application procedure and examination preparation, and they were happy to help.

"Seeta has been very focused and determined from the start. She never gave up in spite of the setbacks of being screened out during her first two attempts at cracking the examination and interviews for the defense forces. One has to be a gem of a person with an admirable personality to join these forces and Seeta is a very good human being," said Lt Col (Retd) Pradeep Brahmankar, who mentored her through the admission procedures and the SSB examinations.

Since the junior college did not have the provision of NCC training for girls, Seeta harbored a sense of injustice towards female students who were interested in taking up physical training and join the defense forces for the nation.

"In today's world, when the US doesn't mind sending lady soldiers to the front, why must India lag behind?" is the question that drove her to prove that women can walk shoulder to shoulder with men in all professional fields, including the defense forces. "Women are giving equal output as men in any field of work. There is no reasonable reason to keep women from entering the army, navy or the air force," said Seeta, who is eligible only for a temporary commission in the Indian Army because she is a female. She believes that proposals to grant permanent commissioning to women will be taken up for consideration by higher authorities soon, which will give her a chance to serve the country at a higher rank.

"We already have lady jawans in the army and lady officers joining the air force. I am waiting for a viable decision on various proposals that ensure gender equality when it comes to joining the defense forces. Till then, I will serve my country with my best at whatever post my country allows me to work on. My motive is to serve my country. I can do so by joining the army or even by teaching girls from rural areas and guiding them on how to join the defense forces," Seeta said.

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