After years of the Indian Army successfully fending off repeated assaults by aspiring combat-worthy recruits — women included — it is now the turn of the Indian Air Force to dodge those gender-seeking missiles. At a time when the first woman Commander-in-Chief of the Indian armed forces is hitting the treadmill to get in shape for her maiden flight in a Shukhoi-30 MKI, the IAF’s Vice Chief Air Marshal P.K. Barbora’s advice for non-presidential ladies is to “be happy, be married” but sans “offsprings” if they wish to ever do what President Pratibha Patil will be doing later this month.
Well, if those kind and gentle men of the armed forces have their way, women would probably have to make do with flipping rotis rather than supersonic loops and serve their children plain naans instead of pushing the throttle on a $40 million plane. Ladies, as those boys who don’t want to share their toys would have us believe, the need to strike the right work-life balance before you can set your sights on the target in your crosshairs, is something that the Top Gun men are born with. Well, there may be an alternative theory we have.
Given that it costs over Rs 10 crore ($100 million) to train a fighter pilot, worries about women running off on maternity leave might be partly justified. Existing service rules already demand that male pilots sign a guarantee requiring them to reimburse training costs if they quit before 14 years of service. To then have a separate set of rules for those with a different set of chromosomes smacks of crony cockpitism. At a time when women around the world are busy making quick trips into the wide blue yonder on billion-dollar space shuttles, what are a few quick rolls at 20,000 feet in a Sukhoi, eh?