Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury wants women officers to be inducted into combat duty to end gender disparity in the armed forces.
Chowdhury, who is a daughter of an army officer, said women officers should not be confined to non-technical and supportive roles like nursing and administrative duties alone.
“It is high time all the three forces adopt a gradual approach to induct women into combat and combat-related operations, such as flying fighters in the Air Force, leading infantry troops in Army or being submarine crew in the Navy,” she said, in a recent letter to Defence Minister A.K. Antony. “The evolution in military strategy has taken a turn from eye-ball to eye-ball combat into one that is carried out at long range from precision-guided munitions. Therefore, there is a strong case for induction of women officers into combat duties,” she added.
Chowdhury said unlike men officers, women officers are recruited only for short service commission that can be extended maximum to 14 years. Hence, it deprives them of the benefit of pension. “Women officers should be given permanent commission and should be entitled for full pension after completion of 15 years of service,” she said.
The minister also expressed anguish at the dismal strength of women officers in the armed forces being just 2.65 per cent of the total strength of 1.2 million, while suggesting special recruitment drives for appointment of women officers.
Chowdhury had, however, succeeded in the past with a similar demand for women personnel in paramilitary forces. The home ministry agreed to bring the number of women to 10 per cent of the total strength. The recent suicide of a women army officer also finds mention in her letter.