The army may have celebrated its lady officers on Republic Day and showcased Nari Shakti (women power) for visiting US President Barack Obama, but it is still not ready to give them combat roles, HT has learnt.
The Indian Army has conveyed to the ministry of defence and the chairman, chiefs of staff committee, that "no combat role is envisaged" for lady officers, sources have told Hindustan Times.
“Restrictions on frontline combat deployment will continue,’’ a senior defence ministry official told HT.
The army’s recommendation came before the parade toasted women power in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for promoting Nari Shakti.
In a first, three services — the army, navy and the air force — were represented by all-women marching contingents at this year’s Republic Day function.
Wing Commander Pooja Thakur had a day earlier earned the distinction of being the only woman officer to command the tri-service guard of honour for a visiting head of state when Obama was given a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Army chief General Dalbir Singh had on January 27 hosted a reception in honour of lady officers and commended them. “We are working on career progression plans for them. Their contribution is immense,” he said.
The progression did not include combat duties, at least that is what the army has told the defence ministry.
“The army is of the view that its women officers cannot be enrolled into its fighting arms like the infantry and the artillery just yet,” another defence ministry official said.
“Given the army’s involvement in counter-insurgency operations, it feels the terrain and working conditions are not conducive for women, either in the jungles of the northeast or in insurgency areas like Kashmir.’’
When contacted, the army refused to elaborate. “The matter is sub judice,’’ said additional director general, public information, Maj Gen Shokin Chauhan.
Several lady officers have taken the army to court, challenging their work conditions and seeking greater benefits. They have asked for permanent commission like most of their male counterparts.
HT spoke to several lady officers who have quit the force and they expressed disappointment at the army’s move. “Nari Shakti is not just about us marching on the Rajpath. We are not dolls in uniform. Don’t just pay lip service,’’ said one officer who did not wish to be named as her husband is with the army.