'Army can do without women'

Vice-Chief's assertion comes at a time when Indian Army is facing dearth of officers, reports Rahul Singh.
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Updated on Jun 17, 2006 10:09 AM IST
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None | By, New Delhi

At a time when the Indian Army is facing a serious shortage of officers and the recruitment of women is at an all-time high, its Vice-Chief Lieutenant General S Pattabhiraman says the force can well do without its women officers.

“Ideally, we would like to have gentlemen officers and not lady officers at the unit level,” Pattabhiraman told HT. “Feedback from lower formations suggests that comfort levels with lady officers are low. We can do without them.”

The army began inducting women in 1993-94 and has about 1,000 women officers serving in non-combat roles.

It has received bad publicity after a series of incidents in which women officers levelled serious allegations — ranging from molestation to harassment — against their superiors. The suicide of a woman officer in Udhampur on Thursday — attributed to work-related depression — has added to this.

Of course, because of the shortage of officers, the army is not planning to reduce the intake of women.

“The right kind of male candidates are not stepping forward. We’ve to turn to suitably qualified women. The challenge is how best to utilise their services without compromising the army’s character and ethos,” said Pattabhiraman.

The Vice-Chief also said the tendency among women officers to plan marriage soon after getting commissioned was causing problems.

The army is, however, making an attempt to address the well-being of women. Pattabhiraman said instructions had been issued to the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, to devise a new  capsule for women officers to condition them to the army environment.

There is also a move to assign women to artillery and armoured corps in non-combat roles, but that proposal has met with stiff opposition.

Pattabhiraman said command headquarters and lower formations had been asked to ensure women were treated compassionately, within the framework of army rules. “We’ll leave no scope for misbehaviour by male officers. Similarly, lady officers shouldn’t take advantage of their proximity to senior officers.”

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