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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Update: Top military brass against permanent commission to women officers

NEW DELHI: Women may have had a long history in military, right from the days of Joan of Arc or even Jhansi ki Rani, but the Indian military brass remains dead against granting permanent commission (PC) to women officers across the board due to what they call `operational, practical and cultural problems'.

Women are being inducted into armed forces as officers since the early-1990s, and many of them have served with distinction, but they can only don their uniforms for a maximum of 14 years even now as short-service commission (SSC) officers. At the most, they can become Lt-Colonels and their equivalents in IAF and Navy in these 14 years.

Many women officers, serving and retired, do not agree with the `double standards' practised in armed forces. "On one hand, the forces keep cribbing about the shortage of officers. On the other, they are perfectly willing to let go of this (women) well-trained and available human resource,'' said a Major.

The government in 2008 did issue orders for PC for women officers but, in what many saw as mere lip-service to gender equality, it was restricted to just the legal and education wings of the three Services, as also IAF's accounts branch and Navy's `naval constructor' department.

The reason was plain and simple. These wings do not involve command of men or battalions. "Women officers have neither been trained for command nor given the responsibility so far,'' a senior officer told TOI on Friday.

"We are going in for having a large SSC base and a lean PC cadre. Granting PC to existing women SSC officers will hit the entire restructuring process. Grant of PC to women must be based on military needs and organisational requirements, not social considerations or pressure exerted by some groups. It has to be a gradual process,'' he added.

But how gradual will the process be? The 2009 batch of SSC women cadets currently undergoing training in the Officers' Training Academy at Chennai or IAF Academy at Dundigal, for instance, will be given the option to choose PC in the legal or education branches just a year or two before they complete 10 years in service. As per existing policy, no serving women officer can get PC.

Some women officers contend they often face a condescending attitude from their colleagues and seniors in the predominantly-male environment of the 13-lakh strong armed forces, where they constitute barely 2.5% to 6% of the officer cadre. Women, of course, are not inducted as PBORs (personnel below officer rank).

"In many fields, like engineering, signals or even flying, women have done better than their male counterparts. So, what is the problem if they are given PC? It's tough to get a second career at 35-40,'' says a woman officer.

Yes, there are operational problems, with the overwhelming chunk of the Army deployed along the borders or in counter-insurgency operations, but women officers can certainly be considered for PC in wings like engineering, ordnance, intelligence, signals, logistics, air traffic control and the like, which will not take them directly to the battlefront.

The military brass, however, holds it's essential to obtain feedback on the performance of women based on the now revised pre-commission training (from the earlier 24 weeks to the present 49 weeks), detailment on courses such as junior command course and assess their performance as sub-unit commanders especially in field areas for holding higher ranks and grant of PC.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Top-military-brass-against-permanent-commission-to-women-officers/articleshow/5677653.cms

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