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No combat role for women: Ministry
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 10
For women officers, combat will continue to remain a dream in the near future. The ministry of defence (MoD) has formally ruled out the induction of women officers in combat units.

“A study related to women officers in the armed forces, including induction in combat roles, was conducted under the aegis of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The study has recommended the exclusion of women officers for the present in close combat roles where chances of physical contact with the enemy are high,” an MoD statement, tabled in the Rajya Sabha two days ago, said.

The ministry’s statement is in conflict with the findings of a three-year study undertaken by the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), which had reportedly stated that women were physically, mentally and psychologically “fit enough” for combat.

Director-General AFMS, Vice Admiral V.K Singh, who had spearheaded the study, was quoted in reports saying there was absolutely no reason why women could not go into combat. “Our study proved that women can be equally effective. In fact, in certain areas, they showed better reflex in taking decisive action,” he had then maintained.

The issue of women officers being inducted in combat units has been the topic of an active debate for some time now.

There have been strong arguments, both for and against the motion. Former Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen S. Pattabhiraman had gone on record saying the Army was facing administrative difficulties with women officers posted in certain field units; a statement that had created a political furore.

The three services have a strength of almost 2,000 women officers. In the Air Force, they are inducted in the flying branch in the transport and helicopter streams, with fighters remaining out of bounds. Other branches include air traffic controllers, aircraft engineering, logistics, education and administration.

In the Army, principal combat arms like the infantry, armoured corps, artillery, and army aviation do not induct women officers. Most other arms and services are open to women for short service commission.

In addition, women officers also join the Army Medical Corps, Army Dental Corps and Military Nursing Service; both in permanent commission as well as short service commission, where they have achieved the highest possible rank, that is Lieutenant-General.

In fact, it was for the first time that a woman doctor was posted at the Siachen Base Camp a few months ago to cater to troops deployed at the glacier. First touted as a major achievement for women officers, the army later decided not to post any more women doctors there because it was found that she was unable to attend to casualties in outposts located at high altitudes. She was the only woman among 1,400-odd men for the two months that she spent there, sources said.

The Navy too experimented with sending women officers out at sea, when two female doctors were posted onboard a warship from 1998-2000. However, it did not become a permanent feature, and sources said that no women officers were posted on ships.

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