On and off, debates are conducted across the nation on inducting women in combat roles in the Indian Armed Forces, however, the sad part is that in all the three services of the armed forces in the country, the gender representation is far from satisfactory.
The number of women officers in the Indian Army (excluding Medical, Dental & Nursing Branch), the Indian Air Force (excluding Medical and Dental Branch) and the Indian Navy recruited (Service-wise) during the last three years will leave you thinking that Women have now served in India’s armed forces for 88 years, then what is that is stopping them for apply for the same. After all who would not like to serve her motherland? Women representation in the Indian Army is 3.64% as on 1st January 2017; 4.49% in the Navy as on June 2017; and 13% in the Air Force as on July 2017.
As per the information given in the Parliament, Indian Army has recruited total 245 women officer excluding medical, dental & nursing branch from 2014 to 2016 with 104 in 2014, 72 in 2015 and 69 in 2016. This represents that there has been 34% reduction in recruitment of officers and moreover consistent fall in the recruitment of officers has been witnessed. The Army is not the only force where recruitment of women is reducing. The Navy recruited 135 in the last three years with 57 in 2014, 35 in 2015 and 43 in 2016, indicating 24% fall. The Indian Air Force recruited the highest with 486 during the said period with 155 in 2014, 223 in 2015 and 108 in 2016.
Presently, women are recruited in the defence forces in selected areas such as medical, legal, educational, signals and engineering wings, etc. Combat roles are not assigned due to operational and logistical issues. Moreover, the women hold only temporary ten-year jobs. They are not allowed on fighting ships, fighter planes, and other combat units, and make up only 5% of military officers.
Here’s the tweet by Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman:
— Raksha Mantri (@DefenceMinIndia) 19 December 2017
From the above-stated information, it is very much clear that Indian Air Force (IAF) leads the way in gender representation if compared to other two. Since its establishment in the year 1993, women officers have been inducted into all branches and stream as Short Service Commissioned Officers except in the fighter stream. However, IAF has revised Short Service Commission scheme to induct women into the fighter stream on an experimental basis for five years.
The first batch of three women officers was commissioned in the fighter stream in June 18, 2016. With Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh in the IAF’s fighter squadron IAF has already created a mark in the history. The final decision on having women as fighter pilots is still awaited!! It would be taken only after evaluating the performance of these three women officers.
The record of Indian Army which is considered as the 3rd largest in the world with the strength of over 1.4 million active personnel is worst. In fact, the recruitment of women officers in the Army is consistently declining in the last three years. That is why additional steps like increasing tenure of women officers and improving promotional prospects in Army have been taken to increase participation of women in the Army.
In the year 2011, the Government approved consideration of women Short Service Commission Officers (SSCOs) for grant of permanent commission along with men SSCOs in specific branches in the three services viz. Judge Advocate General (JAG), and Army Education Corps (AEC) of the Army and their corresponding branches in Navy and Air Force, Naval Constructor in Navy and Accounts Branch in Air Force. In March 2016, approval has been accorded for induction of women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers as Pilots in Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) stream and in the Naval Armament Inspectorate (NAI) cadre.