‘India’s first woman permanent commission officer by 2013′

August 5th, 2008 - 10:00 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) Fulfilling a long-pending demand from various rights groups, the Indian armed forces could get their first women officers holding a permanent commission by 2013, a top commander said Tuesday. “All the three forces have agreed in principle to grant permanent commissions. We will not have any reservation or bifurcation of seats for women. It will be an open competition. So there is also a possibility of an all-women’s batch,” Air Marshal Sumit Mukerji, the Air Officer (Personnel) at the air headquarters here, said.

The recommendation of the armed forces is being considered by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, after which it will go to the defence ministry for approval.

“The decision of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is expected in one or two months. After that, it will take at least four years (the time spent in training) and the first women officers with a permanent commission can be expected by 2013 at the earliest,” Mukerji said.

“The forces are ok with the idea of permanent commissions as long as these are not in branches where there is the possibility of direct contact with the enemy. We will have to make certain cultural adjustments as we did in 1992 when women came to the Indian Air Force (IAF),” Mukerji added.

Once the decision is taken, Mukerji said, institutions like the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla near Pune and the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun, which have hitherto been male preserves, will open their doors to women.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony had assured the Rajya Sabha earlier this year that “the ministry will look into the aspect of granting permanent commissions to women in the non-combatant stream to begin with”.

Countries like Britain and Israel allow women to serve in combat arms like the artillery but exclude them from infantry units. The US allows women in most combat flying positions.

Women are currently eligible for a permanent commission only in the medical, nursing and dental services of the Indian armed forces. They are also eligible for short service commissions in these services, as also in the supporting but non-combatant arms of the armed forces.

Currently, 5,137 women officers serve in the armed forces. They include 4,101 in the army, 784 in the air force, and 252 in the navy.

In the army, women serve in support arms like the Corps of Signals, Army Ordnance Corps, the Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers, and the Army Service Corps.

In the air force, women are inducted in all streams, barring the fighter stream, while in the navy, there are restrictions on posting women officers aboard ships and submarines.

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