New Delhi: The Indian Navy has deployed 28 women officers on board a dozen warships that are operationally deployed in the high seas, and all future inductions including the indigenous aircraft carrier will have them on board.
With the Navy now offering permanent commission to women, the force could eventually see women as commanding officers of critical warships over the next two decades.
“In consonance with the government of India’s objective to empower women, we have taken measures towards providing additional opportunities for women officers in the Navy,” newly-appointed Navy chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar said Friday. “Women officers have been appointed on board almost all major warships.”
The navy chief, who was addressing his annual media meet on the eve of Navy Day (4 December), said the force is fully prepared in all aspects to induct and absorb women across the wide spectrum of roles and responsibilities.
Navy sources said that a total of 28 women officers have been deployed on warships including INS Vikramaditya, India’s only aircraft carrier.
They said women have been deployed on the Shivalik class stealth frigates, Kolkata class stealth guided missiles destroyers and tankers.
The new Vishakapatnam class of destroyer, commissioned last month, also has women officers on board, the sources said adding that the indigenous aircraft carrier, which will be commissioned in August next year will also have women officers on board.
Sources explained that the idea is to have a minimum of two women on board the warships.
In March last year, 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. The permanent commission for women would mean that new entrants would eventually go on to become commanding officers based on merit.
Results of women deployment ‘very encouraging’
The Navy has also undertaken an internal study to see the impact of these changes and sources said the result has been very encouraging and the idea was to scale up with time.
Asked what kind of roles are being given to women, the sources said that since permanent commission has been extended to them, they will go through normal deployment patterns like their male counterparts.
The women officers currently on board ships include those from the medical branch, logistics, naval armament and observers and pilots.
The sources explained the reason why the women have been deployed on new ships and not the older ones was due to logistics.
The new ships and all future ones have separate cabins for women unlike in the older vessels, in which restrooms and bathing areas are common with only curtains separating each.
ThePrint had reported in September last year that the Indian Navy has shortlisted two woman officers as crew for helicopters, which will make them the first woman air combatants to stay on and operate from the deck of a ship once deployed.
It was back in 1997 that the first women officers were posted aboard warships — Surgeon Commander Vinita Tomar and Sub Lieutenant Rajeshwari Kori were deployed on INS Jyoti, a fleet support vessel.
No women officers, however, have been posted on corvettes, destroyers and aircraft carriers and neither do women serve as sailors in the Indian Navy.
According to data submitted in Parliament in February this year, there are 704 women currently serving in the Navy, which is 6.5 per cent of the total officer cadre.