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Sushma wants Vice-Chief's suspension

The BJP leader took strong exception to remarks by Vice-Chief that women were not welcome in the Indian Army.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2006 17:48 IST

Taking strong exception to remarks by the Army Vice-Chief, Lt Gen K Pattabhiraman, that the force could "do without women", senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj on Sunday demanded that he be suspended immediately.

"It is a reflection of the working of the Army and its mindset. If I was the defence minister I would have called the vice-chief and told him we can do without you, you can go," Swaraj said.

"The mindset of Army officers is such that they would not create a conducive atmosphere for women to work in," she alleged.

Since Congress president Sonia Gandhi is a woman, she should ascertain the facts from Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and issue directions accordingly, Swaraj said.

The Army has, however, said Pattabhiraman was "misquoted" and it was the government's policy to encourage women to join the armed forces. There are currently over 900 women officers in the Army.

Swaraj said a more conducive environment should be provided to women cadets and officers in the Army to enable them to work in a stressful atmosphere.

She said she would visit Bhopal, the home of Lt Sushmita Chakraborty who shot herself at the Northern Command headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, to meet her parents on June 21.

Asked whether women were suited to the defence forces in view of practical problems they faced, Swaraj said women today are capable of doing any work. "The questions being raised about practical problems are only excuses."

First Published: Jun 18, 2006 15:21 IST