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Navy to become gender-neutral, to recruit women sailors through Agnipath

The plan is to induct about 3,000 sailors – of which 20 per cent will be women – through the Agnipath scheme this year.

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New Delhi: Paving the way for gender neutrality within all of its branches, the Indian Navy said Sunday that it will recruit women as sailors through the newly introduced Agnipath scheme. These women sailors will be posted on board warships upon completion of training.

While all the three services – Army, Air Force and Navy – have had women officers, this will be the first time that positions of Personnel Below Officers’ Rank (PBOR) will be open to women.

“As we speak, 30 women officers are sailing on board ships. We have decided that time has come to recruit women sailors and in all trades which will include women who will go to sea,” Vice Admiral Dinesh K. Tripathi, Chief of Personnel, said in response to a query by ThePrint during a tri-service press conference at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) here Sunday.

The Navy is still formulating the exact ratio of women sailors to be recruited through the Agnipath scheme, he said, adding that the training of the first batch of Agniveers will begin in November this year. 

Vice Admiral Tripathi said arrangements are being made at INS Chilka in Odisha – the premier basic training establishment for the Indian Navy – to accommodate women recruits.

He added that the training module is also being changed to cater to women sailors.

Sources in the Navy told ThePrint that the plan is to induct about 3,000 sailors through the Agnipath scheme, of which women will account for about 20 per cent.

All 29 trades within the Navy will be open to women sailors including gunnery, anti-submarine warfare, among others, which deal with actual combat, sources said.

Navy chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar had said in December last year that the force could eventually see women as commanding officers of critical warships over the next two decades.

In March 2020, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, had upheld a 2015 verdict of the Delhi High Court granting permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Navy.

A permanent commission entitles an officer to serve in the Navy until retirement, unlike Short Service Commission (SSC) that is currently for 10 years and can be extended by four more years, or a total of 14 years. 

Sources said positive feedback from the deployment of women sailors on board ships, including aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, was among the factors that led to the announcement Sunday.

Not just the future ones, but newer ships being commissioned to the Navy even today, have separate cabins for women unlike the older naval vessels, which had common restrooms and bathing areas with only curtains separating each.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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