Too few Indian women joining the army

May 25th, 2008 - 2:48 pm ICT by admin  

By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Not many women seem interested in joining the Indian Army. Only half the women candidates who qualified in the entrance exam and interview turned up for the Officers Training Academy (OTA) course in Tamil Nadu this year. The course has 80 seats but only around 40 women candidates came as the course began in April this year. This comes even as the top army brass has agreed to give permanent commission to women officers in more branches.

All women have to undergo the OTA course to join the army.

“The OTA has two courses of a duration of 49 weeks - technical and non-technical. For the technical course, 15 women candidates came for 50 seats and for the non-technical, 27 came for the 30 seats available,” an army official told IANS.

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.

The army in 2004 scrapped a special entry scheme for women and allowed them entry through the short service commission as officers for contractual service ranging from 10 to 14 years.

The army also increased the training period for women officers from 24 weeks to 49 weeks, the same as for short service commission men officers.

The unenthusiastic response from women has come as a shock for the establishment as a job with the army used to be quite sought after.

“There is a sudden dip in the number of women coming for the course. We have seen days when around 20 women contended for a single seat in the course,” a senior army official said.

Women have so far been eligible for permanent commission only in the medical, nursing and dental services of the armed forces. They are also eligible for short service commission in these services as also in the supporting non-combatant arms of the armed forces.

Earlier this month, top army commanders favoured permanent commission for women in branches like the judge advocate general (JAG) and education to help meet the shortage of officers in the armed forces.

The recommendation will go to the Chief of Staff Committee which, after discussions with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy, will send the proposal to the defence ministry.

“It was felt that more women could be taken for the non-combatant roles, sparing men for the combatant roles, but this sudden dip is unfathomable,” the official said.

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