Do you have it in you?
Smart, sprightly women making a mark in the armed forces
Raman Mohan
S you approach Vadodara’s busiest intersection, you cannot miss the face of a smart sprightly girl in olive greens saluting and smiling at you from a huge vinyl hoarding. You can also not miss the two stars on each of her epaulettes. She is Lt Aarti Mehta of the EME.

IGNOU VC emphasises equity in access to education
Peeyush Agnihotri
ISTANCE education is not an option anymore. It is a necessity, a compulsion. Despite all efforts, conventional education has been able to touch just 70 per cent of the population. To achieve 100 per cent literacy, distance education is a must,” emphasised Prof H.P. Dikshit, Vice-Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi.





Do you have it in you?
Smart, sprightly women making a mark in the armed forces
Raman Mohan

WOMEN IN UNIFORM: Women Army officers rejoice after their commissioning at the Officers’ Training Academy in Chennai.

AS you approach Vadodara’s busiest intersection, you cannot miss the face of a smart sprightly girl in olive greens saluting and smiling at you from a huge vinyl hoarding. You can also not miss the two stars on each of her epaulettes. She is Lt Aarti Mehta of the EME. She is seen asking the Indian Army’s famous question — Do you have it in you? And most girls passing by answer the query with a big yes. Eversince the Indian armed forces began recruiting women as commissioned officers a decade ago, their numbers in the three services have been growing steadily. But not all of them who “have it” in them make it as the number of vacancies is still limited. Nevertheless, Indian women today are making their mark in this difficult and highly demanding profession.

The Indian armed forces are among the finest in the world and offer a very challenging and attractive career for women. The training in the armed forces ensures that a young woman becomes fully capable of handling difficult and complex situations arising in operational and administrative spheres. Once out of the academy, the forces offer a very healthy work culture. The hallmark of the services culture is challenging and result-oriented environment best suited for honest and upright persons to serve with honour. The individual transforms into a true nationalist and who does not judge others by their religion, caste or region. It is the only career which demands and teaches supreme sacrifice for the country. The forces also offer reasonably good and fast career growth. Career growth in armed forces depends on performance and skill. Most importantly, life in the forces is regimented and it takes priority over normal life and builds esprit de corps. Finally, no other profession offers as much courtesy and respect for women as the three forces.

The defence services need intelligent women with a high sense of responsibility, initiative, sound judgement (under stress), ability to reason and organise, communication skills, determination, courage, self-confidence, quick decision-making, willingness to set an example, compassion and loyalty to the nation. Physical and mental fitness are vital. Selection processes place great emphasis on meeting set physical and medical fitness standards.

Eligible women are recruited as officers on a Short Service Commission basis in the following branches of the armed forces: Army — EME, Signals, Engineers, Army Education Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, Army Service Corps, Intelligence and Judge Advocate-General’s Branch. Navy — all branches of the Indian Navy. Air Force: Flying, Aeronautical Engineering (Electronics), Aeronautical Engineering (Mechanical), Education, Administration, Logistics, Accounts and Meteorology. The recruitment of women is through the Women Special Entry Scheme (Officers).

The posts are advertised twice a year. The minimum qualifications for recruitment to the Army’s non-technical posts in Supply, Ordinance, Signals, Engineers and the EME are BA, BCom, B Sc, BCA or equivalent with 60 per cent marks. If a candidate holds a NCC C Certificate with B or higher grade, the minimum marks required are 50 per cent in aggregate. For the technical branches — Engineers, the EME and Signals, candidates must have a BE or BTech. In the specialist branches like the ASC, the AEC and Intelligence, one requires a PG degree or diploma or a graduate degree with diploma in subjects specified in press notifications. Applications are invited by the Directorate of Recruitment directly and shortlisted candidates are called for the SSB tests. If recommended, they are given training at the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, for six months and Commissioned as a Lieutenant. The induction is initially for five years extendable by another five-year term.

For the Indian Air Force, only science graduates are required for the Flying Branch. For ground duties, you have to possess a degree in any discipline with 60 per cent marks. For the technical trades, you need a BE or a BTech. Likewise, in the Indian Navy, you can gain an entry in the Accounts Branch with a first-class B Com. For all other branches, you need a BE or a B Tech. The age limits vary from 19 to 27 years depending on the branch opted for. The period of service for both these services is the same as the Army. The Air Force and the Navy have their own academies and during training all physical and mental abilities are stretched to their limits.

The armed forces offer a rare blend of adventure, good career prospects and prestige. Several special concessions are offered to officers that are not available in any other service. This includes provision of free rations, goods of daily use at concessional rates in the Canteen Stores Department, free first-class railway warrant once every year up to the home town to avail the leave, concessional railway warrants for subsequent journeys, two months’ annual leave (with the facility of encashment on yearly basis), concessional furnished family accommodation, furnished bachelor accommodation in the officers’ mess at every station and free medical service through various military hospitals and regimental medical inspection rooms. These special benefits are in addition to normal admissible benefits like casual leave, the Army Group Insurance Scheme and the Provident Fund.

Although the services presently retain women for 10 years, the government is considering granting them permanent commission. But even if one were to quit after 10 years, there are ample job opportunities, especially for officers of the technical branches. They are in great demand in the corporate sector because of their discipline, hardworking nature and technical exposure in the services.

So, young women, do you have it in you? 

IGNOU VC emphasises equity in access to education
Peeyush Agnihotri

Prof H.P. Dikshit
Prof H.P. Dikshit — Photo by Pankaj Sharma

“DISTANCE education is not an option anymore. It is a necessity, a compulsion. Despite all efforts, conventional education has been able to touch just 70 per cent of the population. To achieve 100 per cent literacy, distance education is a must,” emphasised Prof H.P. Dikshit, Vice-Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi.

He was in Chandigarh recently to participate in the Indian Science Congress

“Our focus should be to have equity in access to education. Talent in India, sometimes, lies untapped not because of poverty but because of inaccessibility to good educational institutes.

Those who have acquired good education are the ones to whom schools and colleges were accessible. It also means that those who remained illiterate are in no way inferior to their educated counterparts. It’s all a matter of accessibility,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Tribune.

“IGNOU’s course material is internationally recognised. Universities in Nigeria and Kenya have purchased course material for 100 and 68 courses, respectively. The WHO, UNESCO and WIPO, besides many others, are hiring our services for common programmes,” he said.

Professor Dikshit said Information and Communication Technology (ICT) had a pivotal role to play in transmitting quality education through the distance mode. “For this, we plan to have point-to-point satellite communication ready by June this year through a dedicated EduSat that is to be launched within five months. ISRO is considering 11,000 downlinks for this satellite. Bandwidth issue, too, will be eradicated as then we won’t have to be dependent on ground connectivity,” he disclosed.

The VC said 2004 would be a year of special significance for India and IGNOU. “From January 26, the Ministry of Agriculture and the university are going to jointly launch a Jai Kisan channel, dedicated solely to the farmers and agricultural community. Similarly, a tie-up has been done with the UGC for degree programme transmission. Recently an MoU has been signed with the Ministry of External Affairs to provide online education to diplomats,” he said.

Talking about the new courses and study centres that IGNOU is to launch shortly, the VC said the South-East Foundation was keen to start a new study centre from Attari, a town on the Indo-Pak border. “A diploma course in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is to be started from February, 2004, and another diploma in environment is in the offing by March. Later in the year, we plan to start a course in hospital waste management for 10 countries as per the WHO guidelines. From July, 2004, 10,000 fellowships (Rs 12,000 per annum) will be given to those students who pursue their post-graduation courses from IGNOU on merit-cum-means basis.

About numerous student complaints regarding examinations, grades and study material, which IGNOU receives by hundreds, the VC said percentage wise they were inconsequential.

“More than one million students are registered with us and to tackle their problems we have a dedicated message-box on our website ( Students can send in their grievances online,” he said. 


BAMS is on a par with MBBS

Q I have passed Class XII and wish to study ayurveda. I would like to know if the BAMS degree is equivalent to MBBS.

Rajeev Ghai, Jalandhar

A The healing methods of the East are finding increasing acceptance as an alternative line of treatment, even though stubborn lobbyists for academic medicine argue that the methods have not yet been adequately scientifically researched.

While traditional Indian medicine has a 5000-year-old history, modern medicine is merely 150 years old. As more and more people turn to traditional systems of medicine, seeking cures without side or after-effects, a lot of interest is being directed towards ayurveda.With the application of modern diagnostic techniques and extensive research, chronic and hard-to-treat ailments like leucoderma, diabetes and cancer have shown remarkable results through this system of medicine. The Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery (5`BD-yr, Ayurvedacharya) is equivalent to an MBBS degree, which is offered at 196 colleges. At the PG level, this can be followed by MD (Ayurveda) (3-yr, Ayurved Vachaspati), which is offered at 55 colleges and topped with a PhD (ayurveda varidhi). The Central Council of Indian Medicine, Plot No 61-65 Insttnl Area, Janakpuri, New Delhi 58 (M/o Health & Family Welfare) has been set up to prescribe minimum standards of education in Indian medicine (Ayurveda, Siddha and Unnani Tibbia). For the complete list of courses log on to: (M/o H & F W, GoI).

Visa procedure

Q I’ve managed to get admission to the University of California. Please advise me how to tackle the visa procedure as I have heard many horror stories of being grilled by the visa authorities and about visa applications getting rejected even after one fulfils the criteria.

Vikram Kocchar

A While immigration lawyers claim that security interests should not affect the genuine applicants, your apprehensions are not entirely baseless. Post-9/11, the visa norms for students have been tightened. The visa officer wants to make sure you are returning to India after studies and not immigrating to the US. And to this effect the visa section has been categorically instructed by the US authorities to carefully scrutinise a visa applicant to check whether s/he could be a possible immigrant. Which means you have to convince them about your honest intentions of going to the US only for the purpose of study.

The most likely factors that may go against you are that if you have contacts in the US, you may land up having a permanent arrangement there. On the other hand, someone with a well-established family business in India would have a favourable chance.

Proving that being adequately funded through scholarship/sponsorship would improve your chances of getting a visa. If you are getting partial aid from the university, then you need to show how you will finance the remaining cost of your stay and education in the US. Blood relatives, especially parents, are the most trusted sponsors and go down well with the visa authorities. Avoid citing vague or distant relatives and associates as your sponsors to avoid creating unnecessary suspicion.

Finally, be prepared to answer the stereotyped questions as to why you want to study in the US, why in a particular university, etc. Whatever you do, don’t panic or go overboard trying to establish your bona fides. Remain cool, confident and honest. The US State Department has increased the fee charged for all non-immigration US visas by over 50 per cent to cover costs associated with increased security checks after 9/11 to $ 100 (which incidentally has dropped down to Rs 4,600, thanks to the favourable exchange rates). From October ’03, in a reciprocal arrangement with New Delhi, the visa-issuance fee has been scrapped for Indian students, exchange visitors, crewmen and transit visitors.

Also as part of the modified procedures worldwide to secure US borders in view of 9/11, it is now mandatory for applicants to appear in person for obtaining a US visa, which will be issued within five days unless the application is rejected. However, this does not apply to certain categories of people who can continue to submit applications through the US Embassy or Consulate-General "drop box" in major Indian cities.

— Pervin Malhotra, Director, CARING

Please send in your query, preferably on a postcard, along with your name, complete address and academic qualifications to: Editor, Query Hotline, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160020, or at



1. Name the spacecraft that recently made its touchdown on Mars to search for signs of life on the red planet.

2. Which historic city of Iran was recently devastated in an earthquake?

3. Name the five key concerns for child welfare listed by the UNICEF for 2004.

4. Which train will be launched by Maharashtra on January 16 on lines of Rajasthan's famed 'Palace on Wheels'?

5. Which Indian film's script has found a place in the US-based Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, presenters of the prestigious Oscar Awards for excellence in cinema?

6. Expand SAFTA.

7. Which company has developed the world's largest( 80") flat panel screen, using plasma display panel technology?

8. Where will be the next SAARC summit held?

9. What is the full form of PIA?

10. Name the batsmen who hold the record of the highest partnership for the fourth wicket in Test cricket on the Australian soil.

11.Who recently broke Rahul Dravid's record of 233 runs to register the highest individual score in Test cricket by an Indian overseas?

12. What is Sachin Tendulkar's highest score in an innings in Test cricket?

13. How many batsmen have scored more than 9,000 runs in Test cricket?

14. Who recently became the fastest man to score 9,000 runs in Test cricket?

15. Which country has scored the maximum number of runs in a Test innings against Australia in Australia?



School address

Winners of quiz 197 : The first prize by draw of lots goes to Sonali, VII-A, Baba Farid Islamia Public School, Ajit Nagar, Patiala. Second: Sandeep Kaur, VII, Govt Middle School, village Pacca, PO Tehna, dist Faridkot.

Third: Davinder Paul, VII-A, SAS Academy, Ropar(via Morinda road).

Answers to quiz 197: Maithili, Dogri, Bodo & Santhili;100; Red Fort; 2003; JP Dutta; Freedom Tower; Bhutan: a Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom; 7E7; Sony; Salam Azad; Myanmar & Thailand; Sri Lanka; 22; Rahul Dravid; Brian Lara.

Cash awards of Rs 400, 300 and 200 are given to the first, second and third prize winners, respectively. These are sent at the school address.

— Tarun Sharma