Friday, April 2, 2010

Permanent Commission to Women in Combat Units Not Simple: Indian Army Chief General V K Singh

Permanent commission to women in combat units of the armed forces is not so simple as a click of a button but a gradual process and the issue has to be studied in detail, newly appointed Army Chief General V K Singh said on Thursday. "It is not that simple. It is not so simple that at a click of a button we can provide permanent commission to women. We need to sit down and deliberate on this," Singh told mediapersons in New Delhi on the first day in office.

In fact, Singh said, India needed to study how women officers have been utilised by foreign armies in their combat units and how they fared. "As far as women officers in the Indian Army are concerned, whatever we have given them to do, they have fared pretty well. They have measured up to whatever work was given to them. I am sure that is why opportunities are opening up. It is a very gradual process," he said. "We are not a country where women have been in soldiering for a very long time. This has to evolve slowly. It cannot be done in one press of a switch," he added.

The Army Chief wanted the overall effect of permanent commission to both men and women officers to be studied further. However, he said the two issues should not be linked to each other, though the army had started recruiting women to bridge the 11,000-odd shortfall in the strength of the officer cadre. "The A V Singh Committee's premise has been that there should be smaller permanent commission and large short service commission officers. We are factoring all aspects before taking action," he said. The Army had last year offered permanent commission to women in branches such as Judge Advocate General, Education Corps and such other non-combat services of the Army, but for future short service commission officers.

Recently, the Delhi high court, after hearing the plea of serving women officers, ordered the armed forces to provide permanent commission to them too. At present, the Indian armed forces have a cumulative strength of about 2,000 women officers and there has been a growing demand for providing them permanent commission in the combat streams such as infantry, artillery, and engineers in the Army, fighter pilot stream in the Air Force and postings on warships in the Navy. Some countries such as the United States and Israel have women personnel in war-fighting roles and they engage in combat with the enemy shoulder-to-shoulder with their men counterparts............................Rediff

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