Women granted permanent commissions in armed forces

September 26th, 2008 - 8:21 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) Making a small beginning in ensuring a greater role for women in the armed forces, the Indian government Friday decided to grant permanent commissions in select cadres to those who are inducted via the short service commission route.”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 that do not entail direct combat or possibility of physical contact with enemy,” a defence ministry statement said.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony approved the move Friday, the statement added.

However, the larger issue of opening up the portals of training establishments like the National Defence Academy (NDA) and the Indian Military Academy (IANS) to women has yet to be addressed.

“A beginning has been made. Other issues will be addressed down the line,” a defence ministry official said.

Among the cadres in which women will be granted permanent commissions are the Judge Advocate General’s branch and the Army Education Corps and their corresponding branches in the navy and the air force, the accounts branch of the air force and construction branch of the navy.

“The selection will be based on a common merit and eligibility criteria that would be decided by each service headquarters,” the statement said.

A tri-service study carried out in 2006 on all aspects of service conditions of women officers in the services recommended that they be excluded from induction in close combat arms where chances of physical contact with the enemy was 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 a permanent commission,” the statement said.

“A gestation period of 10-14 years was considered essential to assess on-ground performance of women offices before the issue of permanent commission or otherwise could be examined,” the statement added.

“The service 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 were first inducted in the Military Nursing Service in 1927 and in the Medical Officers Cadre in 1943. Induction of women officers in other branches in the three services started in 1992.

There are currently 1,072 women officers in the Indian Army, not including those in the army medical corps.

In the Indian Air Force (IAF), women are eligible for Ground Duties and the transport and helicopter streams of the flying branches.

The current strength of women officers in IAF, including medical services is 793. Of these, 63 are in the flying branch, 132 are in the technical branch, 126 are in the medical and dental branches and the remaining are in the non-technical Ground Duty branches.

In the flying branch, women officers have been flying the AN-32, Avro and Dornier aircraft in the transport stream. They will now be inducted on advanced platforms like the IL-76 aircraft.

In the Indian Navy, women are inducted as officers in the Education branch, the logistics and law cadres of the Executive branch and in the ATC (air traffic control) cadre.

“Women officers are, however, presently not being posted to serve afloat. The present design of ships and congested living conditions do not allow a mixed crew onboard ships,” the defence ministry statement pointed out.

“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,” the statement added.

At present, there are 258 women officers in the Indian Navy.

The Armed Forces Medical Services have 752 women medical officers, 86 women dental officers and 2,834 members of the all-women Military Nursing Service. Of the 752 women medical officers, 490 hold permanent commissions. Similarly, 38 percent of women dental officers and 90 percent of the MNS officers hold a permanent commission.

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