The government’s decision to grant permanent commission in the armed forces to women in certain non-medical branches also is a step forward in recognising the potential of women and in meeting the long-standing demand for parity in the field. The decision is a response to the setting of a deadline by the Delhi High Court, which is hearing a petition in the matter, for the government to formulate its policy on the question. Had the government acted promptly on the pro posal the Chiefs of Staff Committee had endorsed months ago, any impression that there was a lack of keenness on its part in this matter could have been avoided. Across the world, a growing number of countries have been expanding the role of women in their military forces. The mindset that was reflected in a statement made as recently as in 2006 by the then Vice-Chief of the Army that the “comfort level with women officers was low” in the forces, has no place in a modern society.
There is simultaneously a need for sustained effort to integrate women better into the forces, which require to be made more gender-sensitive and women-friendly. Considering that it will take about six years from now for the first of the women PCOs to be in place, there will be enough time to work out the modalities and customise course content — as also infrastructure — at the Officers’ Training Academy to accommodate the women cadets, who will, hopefully, perform on an equal footing with the men. It needs to be considered whether a wider range of branches in addition to Education, Accounts and so on that have now been approved, could be opened up for them. Taking on the agenda the demand that has occasionally been voiced — including by Union Minister Renuka Chowdhury — that women should be given combat roles would be a huge shift. The immediate thrust should be on improving through special recruitment drives the overall percentage of women in the forces, which is a mere 2.56 in India, as against 15 per cent in the United States. In a landmark decision, the Women Special Entry Scheme was launched in 1992, enabling the induction of women in the Indian armed forces on short service commission, although women have been serving the armed forces as permanent officers in the Medical and Dental Corps, and the Nursing Services, for some 80 years. The short service commission of five years is currently extendable to a total of 14 years as a consequence of a series of decisions taken over the last few years. The opportunities that have now opened up can also be expected to persuade a larger number of bright women to opt for a career in the services
6 months ago