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A 13-Year-Old Girl With Autism Spectrum Disorder Swims Across Palk Strait in Record Time

She is a Recipient of the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Purashkar – 2022 Award

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

INDIA. MUMBAI: A 13-year-old Miss Jiya Rai, daughter of a senior sailor of the Indian Navy, Madan Rai of INS Kunjali, and a student of Navy Children School, Colaba, Mumbai, brought laurels to India by swimming across the Palk Strait from Talaimannar (Sri Lanka) to Dhanuskodi (Tamil Nadu, India), a distance of 29 km, in 13 hours and 10 minutes on Sunday, March 20.

On Sunday, the swimming commenced at 4.22 am from Talaimanar and concluded at Dhanushkodi at 5.32 pm. She covered the stretch filled with water snakes jellyfish, facing rapidly changing currents. A child with Autism Spectrum Disorder became the youngest and fastest female swimmer in the world to swim across the Palk Strait. The record was earlier held by Ms. Bula Chowdhary, who swam the distance in 13 hours 52 minutes in 2004.

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The event was conducted by the Para-Swimming Federation of India (PSFI) with cooperation from many agencies, including the Swimming Federation of India, the Sports Development Authority, Tamil Nadu, and the Autism Society of India. The Goa Shipyard Ltd. provided the swimmer financial sponsorship for the event.

The Sri Lankan Navy provided search and rescue cover in Sri Lankan waters during the event, while the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard provided similar support in Indian waters. Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, congratulated Jiya Rai and her parents on this spectacular achievement.

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When about two years old, she was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Her doctor noticed that her repetitive knocking could be purposely applied in water sports as therapy a few months later.

This advice proved to be a panacea as Jiya found herself comfortable and developed a passion for swimming. Recipient of many awards, including the prestigious Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Purashkar – 2022. She is the youngest and the first autistic girl to Swim from Worli sea link to Gateway of India, in Mumbai, covering a distance of 36 km in February 2021. She is now on a mission to swim in all oceans of the world. 

NDA gears up for inducting the first batch of girl cadets

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In another development, the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, the country’s prestigious Tri-Services military training institute, located at Lonawala near Pune in Maharashtra, is geared up for training the first batch of girl cadets with effect from June 2022.

Akin to their male counterparts, girls of the age group 16½ to 19 years will undergo three years of military training after successfully clearing the UPSC NDA written exam, Services Selection Board (SSB) interviews, and medicals. Nineteen vacancies, namely, 10 for the Army, 06 for the Air Force, and 03 for the Navy, have been allotted by the respective Service HQs for the first batch of girls at NDA.

The training objective at NDA shall continue to remain as the center of excellence for producing military leaders equipped with professional, moral, and physical attributes required for leading the troops to victory in the future battlefields. With minimum changes to the existing curriculum, the training in Academics, Drill, Outdoor Training, etc., will be conducted in a gender-neutral manner. However, owing to physiological differences between male and female cadets, the aspect of Physical Training may entail specific changes in the training of girl cadets. 

The dedicated support staff will be provided for facilitating the training of girl cadets. The majority of training activities shall be conducted jointly, keeping their employability in mind, wherein the women officers are required to command the troops of men. A similar training methodology exists in other Pre-Commissioning Training Academics like OTA Chennai, INA Ezhimala, and AFA Hyderabad.

For the stay of girl cadets, one of the squadrons has been identified and is being refurbished with amenities and requirements specific for their training. Actions are underway to augment the existing infrastructure. Requisite modifications will also be undertaken to conform to gender-specific lifestyle requirements. Whereas in the long term, a Defense spokesman said a separate squadron is being envisaged exclusively for girl cadets.

Also Read: RRR:#BoycottRRR in Karnataka Trends Due to Fewer Screens


  • Raju Vernekar

    Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

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