Monday, June 27News That Matters

Limited intake

Even as much tom-tomming and chest-thumping over attaining gender parity followed the fall of one of the last standing male bastions last year — of women being allowed permanent commission into the defence forces through the NDA — the reality is a bit grey. While the door has definitely been opened, the entry for women cadets is restricted. No doubt, this decision emanates from the realities of the ground situation, which have been well thought through by the authorities concerned. So, the Supreme Court last year rightly acceded to the Centre’s argument grounded in infrastructural problems and allowed that the induction of women officers be limited to 19. Importantly, this leeway rested on the assurance that the infra capabilities would be improved to pave the way to accommodate more women the next time.

However, as their number was again fixed at 19 (out of the total intake of 400) this year, dashing the hopes of many gritty aspirants, the SC has been constrained to seek an explanation. The Centre has three weeks to formulate a credible account for arriving at this figure again, considering the overwhelming response by women candidates. Out of over 5.75 lakh applications received this time, 1.77 lakh were from women. And, in the NDA exam held in November, of the 8,009 candidates who qualified for the SSB test and medical tests, notably, 1,002 are women. In their defence, the administrators need to elucidate on the requirement of the forces, taking into account the fact that women are still not deployed in all fields of the tri-services and that there are genuine reservations over their roles in direct combat warfare.

Ever since women were first allowed into the forces in 1992 in India on an experimental basis and then given Short Service Commission for five years, their progress over these three decades by way of induction or rising through the ranks has been steady but painfully slow despite many armies across the world showing the women proving their prowess and mettle in the field. It seems their wait for assuming command positions has not yet shortened.

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