In a first, the Army will soon have women officers in key, high profile posts. Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh has issued orders to appoint women officers as aide-de-camps (ADCs) to army commanders. Two Army commanders are retiring in June and their successors will work with the women ADCs.
ADCs are usually personal assistants to high-ranking military officials, governors and the President of India.
“Women officers are one of the most worthy segments of our human capabilities and their aspirations need to be addressed, so they remain motivated,’’ Gen Bikram Singh told HT, confirming that women officers are also being trained to become staff officers to various commanders at the corps, division and brigade levels.
Though this will be the first time women will be appointed as ADCs, there is criticism within of this being a mere exercise in tokenism to appease women officers who have been asking to be given combat duties.
The army chief signed off on orders to appoint women officers in response to a study commissioned by the army headquarters, aimed mainly at measuring motivational and aspirational levels. As many as 350 women officers were interviewed. They were also assessed on level of toughness and their ability to withstand hardships.
A large number of the women interviewed expressed a desire to be inducted into combat roles, but officers who conducted the study said, “That is a gradual process and will take time.’’ The US and UK army has women officers on combat duty but India is yet to catch up.
There has been considerable disquiet among women officers who are currently only posted at peace stations. They are mostly working in branches that include engineering, signals, military intelligence and law.
At least two women officers, HT spoke to, said they welcomed the move by the Chief but also expressed the view that this would only amount to ‘window dressing’ unless they are also inducted into combat roles.
The study commissioned by the army compared the roles of its women officers to those of their counterparts in the US army but the seniors in the army have currently stopped short of giving them a green signal for any combat role.
Interestingly, the study also looked at the impact an increased role for women officers might have on their male counterparts. The male officers resent the idea of giving way to women officers and the army has been walking a tight rope on the delicate issue, though Bikram Singh has passed orders induct a few of them as ADCs.