New Delhi: The Army started a study earlier this month to assess the feasibility of inducting women in ranks other than officers, and the possible branches these recruits can be inducted into.
The Corps of Military Police (CMP) is the only arm in which the Army has started inducting women recruits in ranks other than officers. The training of 100 selected women for this purpose began in Bengaluru in March.
As far as women officers are concerned, they serve in several non-combat and combat-support arms such as Ordnance, Education, EME (Electronics and Mechanical Engineers), Signals, Engineers. They have not been inducted in direct combat roles such as Infantry, Armoured, Artillery and Mechanised Infantry.
Study started after SC verdict
The study comes three months after the Supreme Court told the government to grant permanent commission to all women officers, who opt for it, and also stated that they will be eligible for command appointments.
According to Army sources, since women officers will now be eligible for command appointments, the Army is examining roles for women across branches depending on the feasibility.
The sources said views have been sought from all commands on the possible branches where women can be inducted in ranks other than officers.
A senior Army officer told ThePrint the commands and the heads of arms will identify roles, which are currently carried out by male soldiers but can be feasible for women too, as well as the number of such soldiers each arm would require to perform the duties concerned.
Reaction to Army study
Talking about the move, another senior Army officer said each soldier has dual roles and is required to carry it out with the same degree of professionalism.
“The tradesmen of an Infantry battalion are also trained soldiers and are used as fighting porters. So, a tradesman in an Infantry battalion may not be a female soldier,” the officer said.
“A similar tradesman in a non-combat arm or service may well be a female soldier and the secondary task may be well within her limitations,” the officer added.
“The entire study would involve a complex study to determine each appointment.”
The officer, however, said with the induction of women officers for permanent commission as well as for command appointments, there is also a need to introduce them in the rank and file.
“This will enhance the feeling of inclusiveness as well as open more vistas for them.”
‘Steps to being inclusive’
A senior woman Army officer, who refused to be identified, told ThePrint the study is a welcome move, and would enhance comfort and camaraderie between women Army officers and those recruited in other ranks.
“Most of them would surely do a good job as an educated staff. As a component in the Army, they should be gainfully utilised,” she said.
Senior defence officers said the armed forces are opening up doors for opportunities to women more than ever before. “Permanent commissions, women in the ranks of CMP in the Army, fighter pilots in the Air Force, fixed wing pilots in the Navy are small steps to being inclusive,” a senior defence official said.
“Women in the ranks is something that is bound to happen sometime. There is no prescribed right time for it other than being open-minded. It’s a mindset that needs to be overcome rather than administrative, social and physiological hurdles, which are also there,” the official said.
The official added most of the developed services took this step at varying times of societal changes and it’s not that they are devoid of problems even now.
“It’s just that they have learnt to handle the issues as we will too,” the official said.
Giving the example of the Navy, which currently doesn’t recruit women sailors, the official said women in ranks can be accommodated in messes as stewards and cooks for instance, though each service has its own methodology of personnel employed for these jobs.
“They can be employed for clerical tasks, financial accounting, store-keepers, medical assistants other than nursing officers, aviation maintenance, etc. Anyway, these are only indicative and a thorough study of service conditions suitable for their entry will be undertaken before any decision will be taken,” the official said.
“In times to come, it is hoped that all gender-based restrictions will disappear for recruitment in any arm or service.”
Permanent commission of women officers
The Army has already begun the process of granting permanent commission to women Army officers after the Supreme Court verdict in February. The court had granted three months’ time to implement its order.
Army sources told ThePrint the Army has already sent out letters to women officers, asking them if they would want to opt for permanent commission.
“However, a fresh GSL (Government Sanction Letter) to this effect is awaiting the nod from the defence ministry. It is expected very soon. After that, boards (for promotion) would be held for women officers opting for permanent commission,” a source said.
Nearly 600 women Army officers would be assessed by the board, the source added.
Army Chief General M.M. Naravane had earlier said the Army has prepared a roadmap for granting permanent commission to women officers, and the first step would be to send out letters to women officers currently on Short Service Commission (SSC), asking whether they want to opt for permanent commission.