An interim Indian Coast Guard came into being on 1st February, 1977. The Indian Coast Guard was formally established on 18th August 1978 by the Coast Guard Act, 1978 of the Parliament of India as an independent Armed force of India. It operates under the Ministry of Defence.
Inauguration of Indian Coast Guard by Prime Minister Moraraji Desai along with Vice Admiral VA Kamath
The Indian word for coast guard is “Tat Rakshak”, “Tat”, meaning ‘shores’, and “Rakshak”, meaning, ‘one who safeguards’.
Indian Coast Guard
“Tat Rakshak” is ‘one who safeguards the shores of this land’.
This extends from 10 to 30 nautical miles from the coast.
That India established its coast guard only 30 years after its independence is in itself intriguing.
The slogan for Indian Coast Guard is ‘Vayam Rakshak’. Vayam stands for “We, Our”. Here, the word ‘Vayam Rakshak’ means, ‘For our protection of us’.
Every nation has to guard its sea borders.
India by its very geography has got a very large coast of 7516 Km which is warm through the year and vigilance has to be extended through the year.
In contrast, in Europe and Non Atlantic countries when the sea is frozen for few months in a year, the demands of coast guards are different. In case of India, the seas being warm, the vigilance level needs to be round the clock.
The Pala kings of Bengal who ruled between 750 CE and 1174 CE had a strong coast guard.
Pala Empire under King Devapala
From this image it is clear that Pala kings covered much of Bay of Bengal. This necessitated that they have a strong fleet of navy as well as coast guard.
The Chola kings of Tamil Nadu covered the southern half of Bay of Bengal for a few hundred years. They also had a strong navy and coast guard.
The Chola Empire during the reign of Rajaraja Chola I
Shivaji under Maratha created a strong coast guard cum naval fleet. Among the Maratha coast guard, the most famous name is Kanhoji Angre.
Statue of Kanhoji Angre in Alibag, Maharashtra
Raja of Kozhikode
The Zamorin of Calicut, the Raja of Kozhikode was called Samuthiri, meaning ‘Lord of the Seas’, had his own strong coast guard.
Vasco da Gama meeting the Zamorin of Calicut, Raja Samuthiri
Where we lost out
When the Portuguese, British started attacking India repeatedly in 1500s and the French and the Dutch in the 1600s, what the coastal leaders lacked was good coast guard mechanism. This is one of the reasons for the downfall of India in succumbing to the colonial powers. This one fact highlights to us the importance of coast guard in maintaining national integrity.
Let us recognize the valiant efforts of the sailors of the coast guard who day & night guard our shores so that we may go about our daily work in peace.