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On the 72nd Independence Day, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced that permanent commission would be granted to serving officers of all the armed forces in India. Those women officers who are under the Short Service Commission would be able to opt for Permanent Commission to fulfill their dream career. While addressing the gathering at Red Fort in Delhi, PM said, “Women officers who have been selected through the Short Service Commission in our defense forces will now have the option to take up Permanent Commission.”

BACKGROUND:

Among all of the serving officers in all armed forces, more than 3700 are women officers. They have been inducted into armed forces after clearing the interview conducted by the Service Selection Board (SSB) for Short Service Commission. A Short Service Commission is a type of commission in armed forces which has a minimum service of 5 years. It can be extended into 10 years and then 14 years. After completing 10 years of service, men officers can opt for Permanent Commission which is extended till the retirement age whereas, at the same time, women officers have to relieve from service. This makes women officers opt for civilian jobs after service and not able to prosper in the armed forces career and make them ineligible for grants and incentives after service.

REASON FOR NOT PROVIDING PERMANENT COMMISSION TO WOMEN OFFICERS:

In 2015, Supreme court intervened in the issue of not granting Permanent Commission to serving women officers. Then-Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi raised a question that “How come women officers who are useful to you for 14 years are not eligible when it comes to granting benefits?” Also, the government introduced a circular in 2008 whereby women officers inducted after “26 September 2008” will be eligible for Permanent Commission. But this was not fulfilled and the court expressed its doubts regarding the validity of the same. Some of the reasons why it was difficult for women to get Permanent Commission in the forces:

  • Physical endurance with increasing age.

  • Type of branch which they opt to get Permanent Commission.

  • A number of male cadets passing are comparatively high and hence fewer vacancies for women cadets.

  • By the time, armed forces emerged as a male-dominated force which is extremely competent both physically and technologically. Women find it tough to compete with these parameters under consideration.

  • Lack of vacancies in the posts of higher ranks is also a major reason. Armed forces have a pyramidal rank structure in terms of a number of vacancies.

PROBLEMS FACED BY WOMEN OFFICERS AFTER SERVICE TENURE:

  • They are not eligible for service pension as a service pension is given to those officers who serve a minimum of 20 years.

  • They are also ineligible for other incentives provided for Permanent Commission officers.

  • They don’t get many opportunities in the civilian sectors when compared to their male counterparts.

  • Their career is incomplete and is forced to opt for private jobs.

PRESENT SCENARIO:

The trend has changed over time. Although in the 1990s, women officers were given Permanent Commission in the AMC wing of the army and similar wing in the Airforce and Navy, it was tough for women in other cadres to get Permanent Commission. Then by the time, women became more competent in their respective fields and showed that they are second to no one. Recently, Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi of the Indian Air Force became the First Indian woman pilot to fly Fighter Jet. Similarly, in Navy, an all-women crew of officers traveled around the globe in a sailboat INSV Tarini under the command of Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi. Army’s women officers are also equally potent that Punita Arora of Indian Army became First Woman to don the second highest rank in the army, that is, Lieutenant General and also the first female Vice-admiral of Indian Navy. These are some examples to show that women are equally efficient and competent in the armed forces. That is the reason why women were permitted to join combat fields of armed forces which were not allowed in the past.

FUTURE OF WOMEN OFFICERS:

It is a good omen that finally women officers are given Permanent Commission in the armed forces by breaking the gender barrier. It is also an example of providing gender equality to all officers irrespective of the field of their service irrespective of their ranks. By this decision, it will also attract the young girls to join the armed forces to start their dream career and to pursue it until the retirement age. It will also ensure the granting of incentives and pension to the women officers who completed at least 20 years of service. Also, armed forces are giving full support to its women officers to develop their career. Apart from the grant Permanent Commission in the medical and education wing, women will be given Permanent Commission in the field of combat, artillery and engineering department. It is a very important aspect that women are no less than men and they are ready to serve the country shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts.

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