The Indian Army in a presentation made before the Defence Minister AK Antony, has put forward a renewed proposal towards permanent commission for Women Officers (WOs). This proposal, which is awaiting the final signature from the Defence Minister AK Antony, looks at expanding the scope for women in newer sectors.
According to sources in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the presentation to the Defence Minister was made on January 17. It entails making the Short Service Commission (SSC) ‘more attractive’, opening up for WOs branches like Works in the Corps of Engineers as well as Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Army Aviation. The presentation also spoke about the ‘considering limited scope for permanent commission for selected SSC WOs.’ In his annual Army Day press conference, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bikram Singh had spoken about inducting WOs in artillery.
However, on contentious issues like combat role for women in the armed forces or even flying of fighter aircraft, there was no change offered implying that these would remain out of bound for women officers.
This was a part of the army’s ‘thought process’ emanating out of a study conducted last year by the General Officer Commanding in Chief (GOC-in-C) of the South Western Command of the Indian Army. Performance of the WOs in arms already allowed to them has been found to be satisfactory.
However, there are still questions pertaining to their role. A source said, “While welcoming this change, we need to be cautious. Giving them permanent commission and role in combat arms has to be thought through. It also needs to be evaluated whether women could even be recruited in the rank and file, why only in the officer role?”
As of now, WOs in the army perform tasks in Army Education Corps (AEC), Judge Advocate General (JAG), flying helicopters and transport planes in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and handle positions in the education, law and logistics branches of the Indian Navy. That apart, WOs have been participating in the Armed Forces medical Services arm as well with recruitment of women in Military Nursing Services (MNS) dating back to 1927 and Medical Officer cadre since 1943.
Women Officers commissioned in the Armed Forces over the last three years
Women Officers commissioned in the Armed Forces Medical Services
In 2008, Antony gave the go-ahead for Women Officers to get permanent commission in select branches of the armed forces like Judge Advocate General, Army Education Corps, Accounts Branch in the armed forces apart from medical services, based on a 2006 tri-service committee report. However it also recommended that Women Officers be kept out of close combat arms where the possibility of physical contact with the enemy was possible.