Friday, September 26, 2008

Finally, Permanent Commission for women officers in select cadres

This statement from the government came in today: In a pathbreaking development, the Government has decided to grant Permanent Commission, prospectively to Short Service Commission officers, both men and women in branches and cadres of the three services, which do not entail direct combat or possibility of physical contact with enemy.

The long-standing proposal received the approval of the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony, today. The branches where permanent commission would be granted include Judge Advocate General, Army Education Corps and its corresponding branches in Navy and Air Force, Accounts Branch of the Air Force and Naval Constructor of the Navy. The selection will be based on a common merit and eligibility criteria, which would be decided by each Service Headquarters.

The issue of grant of Permanent Commission to women officers had been under the active consideration of the Government. A tri-Service study carried out in 2006 on all aspects of employment of women officers in the Services recommended that women officers would be excluded from induction in close combat Arms where chances of physical contact with enemy were high. It was further recommended that it was essential to obtain feedback on their performance based on revised pre-commission training, from 24 weeks to 49 weeks, detailment on courses such as Junior Command Course and assessment of their performance as sub unit Commanders, especially in field areas for holding higher ranks and the grant of Permanent Commission. A gestation period of 10 to 14 years was considered essential to assess on-ground performance of women offices before the issue of Permanent Commission or otherwise could be examined. The Services Headquarters, who were asked to re-examine the issue had only a few days ago recommended granting of Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission officers in select cadres and branches.

Women officers have been in the Armed Forces for about 80 years and served with competence and distinction. They were inducted in the Military Nursing Service in 1927 and in the Medical Officers Cadre since 1943. Following Cabinet approval, induction of women officers in other branches in the three Services started in 1992. There are 1072 women officers in the Indian Army. The figure does not include Army Medical Services.

In the Air Force, women are eligible to fill all vacancies in branches of Ground Duties and transport and helicopter stream of the flying branches. The current strength of women officers in IAF including Medical Services is 793. Of these, 63 are from the Flying Branch, 132 from the Technical Branch, 126 from the Medical and Dental Branch and the remaining from the Non-Technical Ground Duty Branches. In the Flying Branch, women officers have been flying AN-32, Avro and Dornier aircrafts in the transport stream. They are now going to be inducted in advanced platforms like IL-76 aircraft.

In the Indian Navy, women were inducted as officers in the Education branch and Logistics and Law Cadres of the Executive Branch of the Indian Navy from 1992. In 1993, approval was also accorded for induction of women in the ATC cadre. Women officers are however, presently not being posted to serve afloat. The present design of ships, congested living conditions do not allow a mix crew onboard ships. The rest of the training patterns are same as those for male officers. Women officers have not found any major difficulty in adapting to the Naval environment and their performance has been satisfactory. At present, there are 258 women officers in the Indian Navy.

In the Armed Forces Medical Services there are about 752 lady Medical Officers, 86 lady Dental Officers and 2834 members of the All Women Military Nursing Service. Out of the 752 lady Medical Officers, 490 are Permanent Commission Officers. Similarly, 38 % of lady Dental officers and 90 % members of the MNS hold the Permanent Commission.

12 comments :

Prasun K Sengupta said...

It is indeed a matter of great shame and double standards when various bizzare arguments are put forth (even by several senior armed forces officers) time and again to deny women the right to engage in direct combat. While on one hand we hero-worship the likes of the gallant Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi and Ahilyabai Holkar, we frown upon the prospects of women warriors engaging the enemy during hostilities. While it is all right for policewomen and the all-female Rapid Action Battalion (now deployed under UN auspices in Liberia) to be in the line of fire 24/7, it is allegedly unethical for women to take on the enemy in the mountains, jungles, plains or deserts, or in the air or at sea! At least I have to grant due credit to the dreaded, loathed and brutal LTTE for totally doing away with gender inequalities and deploying women with devastating effect with the fearsome and much dreaded Black Tigers and Sea Tigers! In several countries women are most effectively employed to be integral parts of special operations forces. The roles and missions of all-women elements of the Soviet/Russian Spetznaz is well documented (the resident die-hard pro-Russian psycho who recently returned from Siberia, please back me up here, will you)as are those of the Israel Defence Forces. So what prevents India from removing the prevailing gender inequalities and deploying women for direct combat? Why is that even the proximate security elements of the Special Protection Group are an all-male affair? Is this all due to a discredited patriarchal mindset? Shouldn't the choice of volunteering to go face-to-face with the enemy be that of the individual?

Anonymous said...

TO SENGUPTA

it is easier to go for jobs in private sector nowdays than in public sector

for public sectors jobs u have to go through various written tests and many others hurdles

biggest hurdle is
"REFERENCE OR APPROACH" IF u
don't have reference u can't get in
how bright and intelligent U r .even if there r lots of vacancies without aproach there is not much chance

FOR SARKARI NAUKARI SELECTION PROCESS IS NEVER TRANSPARENT

IF U GO TO ARMED FORCES AND TRY TO FIND OUT HOW MANY PEOPLE R THERE WHO DIDN'T HAVE "APPROACH" AND THEY GET SELECTED U WILL FIND VERY FEW

moreover "QUATA" system how will u break that

atleast in private sector they don't have QUATA system AND its
booming

Anonymous said...

to prasun

truth is this that ladies in permant commission with armed forces r mostly nurses cuz this work is better suited to women

infact armed forced and police r good place for unskilled people(for khidmat huzuri or naukarshahi) for officers and this is the reason many soldiers shot themselves cuz they have to serve the officers too for their private tasks which is not acceptlable to soldiers.

soldiers also have self respect and they r also from respected families and officers use them cuz they have lower rank

those 11000 vacant officer seats in armed forces never get filled
simple FACT IS THAT THERE R NO MORE VACANCIES IT IS JUST A PROPOAGANDA OTHERWISE THERE R LOT OF PEOPLE TO FILL THEM

its same like "THERE R NOT ENOUGH TEACHERS IN SARKARI SCHOOLS BUT THOSE VACANCIES NEVER GET FILLED"


someoneelse get the pays of those 11000 vacant officer seats in armed forces or
it is a WELL KNOWN TRUTH

for skilled people or women private sector is better

i am saying this because what i saw when i was studying in army school

Anonymous said...

I am a serving defence officer and I am open to the idea of women serving in combat arms.However,before coming to emotive conclusions(like the first one in this series of comments) let us ask the women serving in the armed forces for their honest opinion.From what I know about all the three services,the women officers themselves are decidedly disinclined towards combat arms.The reason being that life is tough and it involves too many sacrifices.Why should a women go into the harms way when she can earn the same pay and better perks in support roles?Why should she leave a comfortable peace station job and go and slog it out in the mountains and deserts?The initial charm and josh of fauji uniform withers after the initial few years.Thereafter it is a yearning for normal life - which includes marriage and children.A normal women would like to fulfill all these biological needs.Most women officers in the Armed Forces end up finding a life partner from the serving officers fraternity.Combat duty for women is an anacronism in terms of Indian ethos and also the laws of nature.In the West, women are more independent minded and bold,yet there are biases against them in the military.In the US,supposedly the most liberal military in the world,women still face unofficial discrimination.We must acknowledge that in the traditional Indian psyche,a combat role for women is still an alien thought.Those who quote history should remember that Rani of Jhansi fought because she was cornered and had no other option for preserving her self respect and the soverignity of her principality.She did not take up soldiering as a career.Similarly many others,including the brave Neerja Bhanot fought when they were left with no choice.No women likes to take up aggression as a career.And for jobs such as in the infantry or the artillery,some bit of aggression and coldbloodedness is a necessity.Imagine a lone women officer commanding a forlorn high altitude post on the LoC ,in company of burly,rustic males that typify Infantry soldiers.Will the acceptance be easy for the male chauvinist Indian males?There will be leadership issues everywhere.No Army can afford this kind of a flux.May be in future,we can see women flying fighter aircraft but imagine a situation when a women is paraded on the TV as a POW like Flt Lt Nachiketa!How will the nation react?Succumbing to public alarm,a rightist government led by the BJP had to give in to the hijackers of IC 814 when they started killing people onboard.So how will the nation react when they see a lady in flying overalls brought in front of the TV camera as a POW?Or worst,a women's dead body being exchanged at border posts.Come to the Navy,the life onboard most of the ships is a scene of heavily compromised community living, sans any semblence of privacy.Can women share the same loos and heads used by men officers?Can they take bath in common showers?More importantly,will they like to share congested working places and cabins with male collegues?These are the questions that have tremendous practical implications on the subject.These need to be resolved to let the idea take shape.I would reiterate again that most serving women would themselves reject the idea of moving into combat roles.Thank you armchair journalists.The women are already are in and they know best!

Anonymous said...

above comment is the most sensible one i have read so far. best wishes to you sir.

chandrabhan said...

Well prasun, I respect your views on the subject of equality of sexes but still I don't support the idea of women joining combat units. It has nothing to do with their heart and courage but we are no short of capable Men who are willing to do the job.
We do worship Kali and Durga but modern combat situations and long stays away from family can lead to unwarranted situations. Moreover as i said we are not short on men, only thing required is right policies - ijjat for the forces and not these chai - biscut sessions. you want to attract and retain the best, pay the best and give respect to the job when and where it is due.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Anon@12.08PM: With regard to women serving on board principal surface combatants or even submarines, we don't have to look too far for practical solutions. Just study the procedures by the navies of China, Taiwan, Australia, the UK and US and if their navies can achieve gender equality under operational frontline conditions, there's no reason why the Indian Navy cannot.
Even in terms of the sight of women EPWs being paraded publicly, the mental jinx was broken during OP Iraqi Freedom when the first such 'publicised' incident took place and apart from the initial trauma, things as we all now know, worked out just fine. Even in terms on the on-going civil war in Sri Lanka, we have yet to come across any publicly document custodial transgressions committed by the Sri Lankan Army against any captured female LTTE combatant. I too am not in favour of the kind of prolonged exposure of women combatants to the type of extreme environments as those at the remote LoC outposts. However, just as the Soviets/Russians, the Chinese and even the Vietnamese armed forces do, the Indian armed forces too could employ women combatants in specific special operations detachments for limited surtgical missions. That option needs to studied carefully and cannot be brushed off as being too emotive an issue. If a woman wants to go into harm's way without being coerced in any way, it is for her to decide her destiny voluntarily.
I totally agree with you that it was an alarmist NDA Central Govt that succumbed and blinked first during the IC-184 hijack incident. It even refused to hear the opinion of the armed forces until the then COAS Gen V P Malik himself took the bold step of contacting the then PM directly to explain to him in layman's terms that even aircraft hijackings have a national security dimension and there are viable options available from the armed forces to combat such scenarios. But I believe that it was the then Govt of the day that got alarmed and lost the initiative, and not the Indian public. The political leadership grossly underestimated the resilience of the country's citizens and their ability to absorb and accept the consequences of taking a firm stand against terrorist blackmail.
Lastly, two small observations: Firstly, if you are a 'serving defence' officer. I assume you mean a uniformed member of the 'armed services'. And if my assumption is correct, then surely you would know very well that the ranks of the Maoist guerrillas--be in within India or even in Nepal--are swelling with female combatants. Consequently, on what basis do you claim that "most serving women would themselves reject the idea of moving into combat roles"? Isn't the ground situation actually the very opposite of your stated claim?
Secondly, what makes you so cocksure that the so-called armchair journalists did not have a prior military service background, or did not participate as active combatants in the past while in service? Aren't you being a bit too prtesumptous?

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Dear Chandrabhan: I totally agree with you regarding the restoration of 'izzat' accompanied by satisfactory financial renumeration levels being adopted. But that is much easier said than done. The country's defence budget can no longer accommodate all at the same time like the armed forces' 6th Pay Commission expectations, the expectations of the pensioners, and at the same time the rising funding requirements for the armed forces' force modernisation processes. Something's got to give. The only way out of this financial crunch as I see it is for the MoD to undertake an urgent fast-track shares divestment for its existing defence PSUs. For security reasons the MoD can always retain a 'golden share' in these defence PSUs, but they urgently need to be transformed as publicly listed industrial entities as the MoD can no longer bear to fully fund the annual capital requirements of these PSUs. What is making the financial burden unbearable is the rising cost of acquiring new-generation weapon systems from abroad, since even the Russians are demanding payments in Euros and that too at price-levels that are only 15%/20% cheaper than those quoted by non-Russian OEMs. The writing on the wall is clear: sink or swim.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prasun,I am anon 12.08PM again.I think you have taken my comment 'armchair journalists' personally.It was not meant to be so.It was addressed to those who come to conclusions on the basis of liberal orientation and not on rationality.I say again that I am open to the idea of women joining combat arms,but I have my own doubts whether we are socially prepared for the idea to take shape.Like I mentioned,if the women join combat arms and do not participate shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts,they will be ridiculed as softies.Already cynics point out that their training is less ardous and they are often kid gloved.If the same was to happen in combat arms,they would lose their credibility very soon and that may not augur well for the Services.I wonder whether the women themselves would like to serve in such a second fiddle fashion.I have the benefit of being a trainer at an Officers basic training establishment and I draw my conclusions based on my experience and assessment of the ground realities.Secondly,comparing the Maoist female ranks with regular armed forces may be specious.The Naxalite movement has a socio-economic dimension and the involvement of women is a part of a larger social uprising in the disaffected area.In case of the Services,women would take up their careers as a paid profession,not some sort of a spontaneous gut reaction like the Naxalites.Let us understand that aggression would come naturally to someone who is emotionally charged up(and thence motivated),like the LTTE and Maoists,and not to someone who is looking for a rewarding career.Thats the key.Presently,Indian society does not seem poised to encourage women in professions that may involve armed contact with the enemy.Let us wait for some more time.That stage will come.And Prasun,I read you in the FORCE too.I admire the depth of your knowledge and the wide interests that you have.Keep the debate alive.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Anon@11.40AM: Your constructive comments, observations and opinions are always welcomed and I for one deeply appreciate them. You struck the nail on its head when you identified the Indian social mindset as being the main obstacle to achieving across-the-board, full-spectrum gender equality. Unless that changes, motivation too will take a backseat. Your pragmatic assessments are much valued. Jai Hind & I wish you the very best in all your future endeavours.

Rajax said...

Dear Prasun,

Speak if you are in the Defence. As a Defence Officer (Air Force) who has seen Lady Officer, I can definately say that they are sheltered. I have myself sheltered them (and will do it again if I have to). I being in the Air Force am not qualified to comment on Army. That makes you even less so.
Pls do not try to apply your liberal American European values to Indian fauj. USA and Europe had to make it fashionable for Women to work. They had to because their menfolk were slaughtered in the Great War and WW II. It is their value system which, howsoever you like, cannot be forced (and should not be forced) on our fauj. Think about it. Things will be done in phases and may not work out for Lady Officers as you think. Lady Jawans and Lady Airwarriors is unthinkabel at this point (As was females and blacks voting in "advanced" USA a few decades back.)

Anonymous said...

what about the male SSC officers. No body is talking about them. Even IAF stopped cosidering Male SSC officers for permanant Commission since 2006.There is no rehabilitation policy for male SSC officers. They are released in their mid or late 30s with lot of responsibility of their family.What will they do at that stage? Is there anyone who can explain it?