India’s ‘Rocket Girls’ Create History At Republic Day Parade

India's 'Rocket Girls' Create History At Republic Day Parade

Republic Day 2024: Nari Shakti was on full display at this year’s parade.

New Delhi:

India’s rocket girls have made us proud and now they have basked in glory at the Republic Day Parade as the space agency’s tableau ‘Chandrayaan-3 – A Saga in the Indian Space History’ ambled down Kartavya Path, bringing cheers and smiles to everyone present at the venue. Nari Shakti was on full display at this year’s parade.

Eight women scientists waved to the crowd from the tableau that showed the Shiv-Shakti Point on the moon, the Vikram Lander and Pragyan rover, and another 220 women scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) who were special invitees of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the gala event.

India can soon have a woman astronaut, asserts Shri S Somanath, Chairman, ISRO, adding that “in the first flight of Gaganyaan, it may well be an all-male crew but as and when women test pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) are available, we can have Indian women as astronauts on an Indian mission. ISRO will welcome women to be part of the Gaganyaan astronaut corps, and also as mission specialists.”

The ISRO tableau also showed the landmark Aditya L1 mission that was led by a woman; a model of India’s ‘Bahubali rocket’ the Launch Vehicle Mark 3 and an image of the Bhartiya Antrisha Station and a depiction of the ambitious Gaganyaan program. The float also does not forget to depict ancient astronomers and space pioneers like Aryabhata and Varahamihir on murals.

Contrary to what many believe that there is a gender bias at the Department of Space, Ms Nigar Shaji while earlier speaking to NDTV said, “there is no glass ceiling for women at ISRO, adding that at ISRO only talent matters, gender plays no role.”

She is one among many ‘sheroes’ at ISRO. Earlier Ms M Vanitha led the Chandrayaan-2 mission and Ms Thenmozhi Selvi K led the making of the earth imaging satellite, OceanSAT. More recently, Ms Kalpana K has been deputy project director for the highly successful ongoing Chandrayaan-3 mission. On the shop floor and clean rooms of ISRO, men and women work shoulder-to-shoulder bring glory to India. All ‘rocket girls’ who quietly and humbly do their jobs to make India a proud space fairing nation.

Mr Somanath, says today that about one-fifth of the workforce at the space agency are women, and efforts are being made to have more women on the rolls, but vehemently insists that “at ISRO gender plays no role, only talent matters and the right person is carefully chosen to do the precise job. Even the administrative staff give their best. This is what makes ISRO stand out and shine.”

Satellite engineer Ms K Thenmozhi Selvi has made 10 satellites in her long career at ISRO. She joined as a Technical Assistant and rose through the ranks to head the making of the several hundred crore OceanSat satellite. On November 26, 2022 she made history by becoming the first woman ISRO engineer to speak from the podium at the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota.

Statistics from ISRO show that out of the 15,700 workforce, about 17% of women make up the technical and scientific cadres and 34% of women are there in the administrative cadres, which means about 20% of the workforce at ISRO are women. Incidentally, this is higher than the national average for other science departments which stands at 16.6 %.

India’s science minister Dr Jitendra Singh recently told the Rajya Sabha, “In India, there are 56,747 full-time equivalent of women employed in R&D in the total workforce of 3,41,818 which is 16.6% of total S&T workforce. However, their overall participation as workforce including research, auxiliary, and administrative role in R&D establishments is about 18.8%.”

Ideally, it should be 50 per cent and the government is making a concerted effort to bring in gender balance through special women-centric schemes.

An estimate by the Department of Science and Technology suggests that over the past two decades, women’s involvement in scientific research has increased in India, the proportion of female researchers rose from 13.9% in 2015 to 18.7% in 2018. However, there were fewer women in engineering and technology (14.5%) than in the natural sciences and agriculture (22.5% each) and health sciences (24.5%).

Additionally, India’s largest civilian research establishment, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is today for the first time headed by a woman, Dr N Kalaiselvi, and the CSIR is incidentally showcasing its big achievement of the aroma mission spearheaded by the purple revolution through lavender cultivation as a pioneering agri-start-up women-led initiative.

Indian ‘sheroes’ are showing how nari-shakti can reach new orbits and also bring peace in strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir

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