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Where are the lady Lt Colonels?

Contrary to claims made by Army, lady officers can't even become substantive majors, writes Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2006 02:47 IST

Attempting to clear the air on the raging gender controversy, the Army proudly proclaimed on June 19 that the first batch of its women officers had begun picking up the rank of lieutenant colonel. It now turns out that was a lie.

What they never disclosed was that the Army headquarters had asked the only lady officer outside the Army Medical Corps to have achieved that distinction to relinquish her rank. Lieutenant Colonel Priyamvada Mardikar from the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) was conferred the rank on International Women's Day (March 8) last year.

Sources in the Army headquarters told HT that the commanding officer of her unit had erroneously promoted Priyamvada after 13 years of service, on the recommendations of the AV Singh committee.

In sharp contrast to the claims made by the Army, lady officers cannot become lieutenant colonels, not even substantive majors, because the recommendations of the committee which govern the male officer cadre do not apply to the women as of now.

The Army, however, claims it's in the advanced stages of removing this disparity. Despite what the Army says, lady officers who are on the verge of completing 13 years of service are on tenterhooks. Since they retire after 14 years, time is clearly running out for them and many of them are asking why it is taking so long to revise the policy for women.  

Though women officers have been made majors, they continue to draw the pay and allowances of the substantive rank of captain.

Priyamvada, who is from the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES-03) course, is among the seniormost lady officers in the army outside the AMC. Four other lady officers belonging to the same course are also serving in the army in the rank of acting major. They will soon become due for promotion to lieutenant colonel.

Priyamvada, who has made representations to the army headquarters, was promoted after 11 years as her technical qualifications fetched her two years antedate seniority. Some lady officers from junior courses, but with technical qualifications, are about to complete 13 years of service.

A lady major asked, "How can the army claim that women are being made lieutenant colonels when they are not even being given the rank of substantive majors despite a defence ministry notification? We feel terribly hurt to see a sister officer being treated like that."

The AV Singh committee's recommendations were implemented by the government in December 2004 as a result of which all majors who had completed 13 years of service were conferred the rank of lieutenant colonel. Women are still being denied that.