147,000 women register for national defence academy exam
Total 669,000 applications have been received this year for the exam, HT has learnt.
A total of 147,000 women have registered for the national defence academy (NDA) exam, comprising nearly 22% of the total 669,000 applications received this year, HT has learnt.
Last year, while the total applications received were 570,000, 178,000 were women candidates (31%). Of these (178,000), only 1,000 cleared the exam whose interview results are due to be released soon.
The NDA exam is conducted twice a year, NDA-I in the first half of the year and NDA-II in the second. This year, the NDA-I exam is slated to be held on April 10.
Former Army officer Captain Shalini Singh attributed the drop in applications to a possible lack of awareness among women on the defence exam.
“The last (exam) was the first attempt, so there was a lot of excitement. However, through my conversations with women belonging to tier-2 cities and studying in class 11, I learnt that not many are aware that they can apply for the defence exam. There is also not much knowledge on how women need to go about it,” she said.
Breaking the glass ceiling that endured for 65 years, the Supreme Court in August last year rejected the government’s argument that the restriction against women from training at the Pune-based NDA was a policy decision while issuing the interim order to let them sit for the exam in November.
Under the eligibility criteria at that point of time, only male candidates who cleared class 12 level or its equivalent education and were in the age group of 16-and-a-half and 19 were eligible to apply. Those who clear the NDA exam are called for interview by the Service Selection Board (SSB) and following a medical exam, candidates are recruited in the Indian army, navy, and air force wings of NDA, and for the INA course for pre-commission training. NDA was commissioned in 1955.
Till the apex court’s ruling last year, women were allowed to serve in select branches of the army, air force and navy as short-service commission (SSC) officers.
In November, the first batch of women candidates appeared for the written exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). A month later, 19 women candidates were declared successful by the commission.
On January 18 this year, the top court asked the government to explain the rationale behind restricting the intake of women cadets in the upcoming session of the NDA to 19 – the same as last year.
The Centre claimed the number is based on sound rationale and current requirements of the armed forces. It said that “a considered decision has been taken” to allot 10 vacancies for women cadets in the NDA for army, three for navy and six for air force respectively.
The headcount of women in the military has increased almost three-fold over the last six years, with more avenues being opened to them at a steady pace. As of February 2021, 118 women were serving in the armed forces.
The apex court in February 2020, ruled that SSC women officers were entitled to permanent commission (PC) in the army and navy and that they have to be considered irrespective of their service length. This judgment led to around 5,020 women officers being granted PC.
This year’s NDA exam is slated to be held on April 10.