Sharp decline in number of women joining armed forces

Mubarak Ansari
Monday, 31 July 2017

Pune: Though women workforce is rising in most sectors, the armed forces are not attracting the fairer gender. In last three years, Army has seen a drop of 34 per cent in recruitment of women officers, Navy 25 per cent drop and the Indian Air Force (IAF) a 30 per cent drop. 

"Women are recruited in Army as officers through Short Service Commission (SSC) on all-India merit basis along with men candidates," Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Bhamre said in a written reply to Harish Chandra alias Harish Dwivedi in the Lok Sabha on Friday. 

Pune: Though women workforce is rising in most sectors, the armed forces are not attracting the fairer gender. In last three years, Army has seen a drop of 34 per cent in recruitment of women officers, Navy 25 per cent drop and the Indian Air Force (IAF) a 30 per cent drop. 

"Women are recruited in Army as officers through Short Service Commission (SSC) on all-India merit basis along with men candidates," Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Bhamre said in a written reply to Harish Chandra alias Harish Dwivedi in the Lok Sabha on Friday. 

In 2011, the government approved consideration of women SSC officers for grant of permanent commission along with men SSCOs in specific branches viz. Judge Advocate General (JAG), Army Education Corps (AEC) of the Army and corresponding branches in Navy and Air Force. 

What lady officers have to say? 
Capt Vidul Kelshikar (retd), now associated with Apex Careers, Pune, that coaches armed forces aspirants, said that while interacting with young girls, she found they were more inclined towards IAF and Navy than Army.

"They are fascinated by the IAF, since women can become fighter pilots. That glamour factor is missing when it comes to the Army. This could be a reason why women are not opting for Army," she said. 

Another lady officer with more than 10 years service said the possible reason behind the decline could be that those coming through SSC have to serve for 10 years, with a possible four-year extension. 

"The women in the armed forces have been demanding a permanent commission, which is not given to SSC entrants. Giving away 10 of your prime professional years without getting any benefits (pension, medical facility) afterwards, could be deterrent for aspirants. Earlier SSC included just 5 years compulsory service, after which the woman could take up a different career path easily," she added. 

Permanent commission for women 
She added that the lady officers have been demanding a permanent commission (20 years service) which will ensure a stable future for those wanting to serve in the Army. She also said training at Officers' Training Academy (OTA) has been increased to 11 months. 

"The mentality of Indian parents is such that they get worried about their daughters, who have to train rigorously for 11 months, then serve for 10 years which includes uncertain postings and a struggling family life," she said. 

Most of the women in the armed forces marry officers, and then the struggle for family posting begins. While the Army does try to give 'spouse' posting so that the husband and wife can stay together, according to a serving lady officer, it is harder to manage that in Army, compared to Navy and IAF. 

Kelshikar said spouse postings are better managed in IAF and Navy than in Army. 

Future of women 
“The IAF revised SSC scheme to induct women into the fighter stream on an experimental basis for five years. The first batch of three women officers was commissioned in the fighter stream on June 18, 2016. In addition, steps like increasing tenure of women officers and improving promotional prospects in Army have been taken,” the minister stated in the Lok Sabha. 

Present role of women in defence forces 
“Women are recruited in Indian Army as officers through SSC on all-India merit basis along with men candidates. Women officers are inducted into Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, Army Education Corps, Judge Advocate General Branch including Engineers, Signals, Intelligence and Electrical & Mechanical Engineering branches.

They are also commissioned in Medical Branch Army Medical Corps (AMC), Army Dental Corps (ADC) and Military Nursing Service (MNS). 
The induction of women Officers is based on requirement, fighting efficiency, combat effectiveness and functionality of the Army. 

The IAF pioneered entry of women as officers in flying and ground duty. In Indian Navy, women officers are inducted through SSC, in Logistics, Law, Observers, Air Traffic Control (ATC), pilots (Maritime Reconnaissance Stream), Naval Armament Inspectorate cadre (NAIC), Naval Architecture and Education Branch,” the minister stated. 

Percentage of women officers 

Army:3.64% (as on 1.1.2017)

Navy: 4.49% (as on June 2017)

 Air Force: 13% (as on July 2017) 

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