AS MAJOR Radhika Khanna (name changed) prepares herself mentally for retirement next year after serving the army for 14 years, she is faced with many unresolved and troubling questions. Will she be able to get employment in civvy street? Without a pension, where’s the money going to come from? For Major Radhika and scores of other women officers who gave their salad days to the army, there’s still hope.
Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Hindustan Times on Sunday that all “relevant aspects” of women in the army, including granting them permanent commission and making their jobs pensionable, were being closely examined.
“I am meeting up with the three service chiefs to discuss various issues related to women in the army. The idea is to ensure that there is no gender-based discrimination,” he said.
A series of reports carried in Hindustan Times sparked a firestorm of gender debate across the country, following which the defence minister directed the military establishment to get its act together and ensure women officers faced no discrimination.
Women officers nearing retirement feel they can still contribute significantly to the army and the provision of a pension would make an army career more attractive. Mukherjee said, “We are eager to create an environment to encourage women officers.”
Having asked the army to immediately extend the benefits of the AV Singh committee report to women officers, Pranab Mukherjee said the government was studying the “financial implications” of implementing the second part of the report which deals with creating more vacancies at the senior level, brigadier upwards.
A lieutenant general attributed the delay in the implementation of the report to the indifferent attitude of the Air Force and the Navy.
“For us, the stakes are enormous. The issue may not be too critical for the other two services,” he said.
The defence minister said, “We have to build a consensus among the tri-services before implementing the report for senior officers. But we have already achieved our primary objective of reducing the age of commanding officers.”
Asked when would his ministry release the request for proposals for the purchase of 126 fighter jets for the IAF, Mukherjee said, “The stakes are very high. We are weighing the security aspects before taking the next step.”