M A I N   N E W S

Army Vice-Chief apologises
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 20
Having failed in its attempts to assuage the feelings of the fairer sex and the agitating women organisations through its intense fire-fighting measures, the Army today came out with an official apology from the Vice-Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen S. Pattabhiraman, on his reported remarks that forces could do without women.

The Army late in the evening came out with a clarification on behalf of General Pattabhiraman where he said: ‘‘Should my remarks, as reported in the press, have caused any anguish or doubt on my personal commitment and healthy respect towards the role of the lady officers in the Army, I have no hesitation in rendering an apology to such groups or sections of the society or individuals.”

In the statement the Vice-Chief further said that he would like to place on record that the lady officers joining the Army as part of the Women’s Special Entry Scheme have contributed in as much measure as their male counterparts towards upholding the Army’s traditional work culture and ethos.

They have also excelled in fields such as adventure sports and shooting, apart from providing value addition to the Army’s work in fields such as education, IT, communication engineering, architecture, inventory management,
intelligence and combat logistics. “I also recognise that women of our country have played a stellar role not
only in nation building but also in extreme adventure activities like climbing the Everest,” he said.

Sources here said that the apology from the Vice-Chief of Army Staff came today after Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee took stock of the situation last night in a meeting with Chief of Army Staff Gen J.J. Singh. He apparently expressed his unhappiness over the “reported comments” and asked the Army to come out with an apology.

Reports also suggested that there was political pressure also as the situation was fast going out of hands with the women organisations, specially those led by the Opposition parties, were going to town agitating about the reported remarks of the Vice-Chief. The apology has come in an attempt to ensure that the issue does not get political overtones, specially from some of the parties which form part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government.

The Vice-Chief also said: “It is unfortunate that during an interview on June 16, remarks ascribed to me by a journalist in relation to intake of lady officers in the Army has caused consternation and generated adverse publicity”.

The apology from General Pattabhiraman came after three days of the Army insisting that his remarks about women officers have been quoted out of context even though the issue has donned political motives with women politicians even seeking the Vice-Chief’s suspension from the force.

The Army had yesterday in its fire-fighting exercise had insisted that there was no kind of gender bias in the forces and pointed out that it was for the first time in the history of the force that women officers had actually risen to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonels. The Army officials had claimed that from among the first batch of women officers who joined the Army in 1992 some had attained the rank of Lt- Colonels, the highest rank for short commissioned officers. Although there are instances of women in the Armed Forces Medical Corps rising to the ranks as high as Air Marshals and Major-Generals, but for the first time women officers inducted in other non-combat branches have risen to the rank of Lt-Colonels under the extended short service tenure enforced by the Government. The Army also sought to give out statistics in this regard and pointed out that from 1992 onwards, from the women inducted in the force only 10 women officers had sought to leave the force while more than 900 others have opted to stay on. "When the armed forces were opened as a career option for women, we used to get 35-odd applications for a single vacancy and the figure now has gone to as high as 50 per vacancy", officials said.



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