NEW DELHI: At a time when the Indian Air Force has commissioned three women fighter pilots, the Indian Army is struggling with the sharp decline of women personnel. Following an initiative by the Centre, Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh became the first women fighter pilots in the country on Saturday. In sharp contrast, the number of women officers in the Army has declined by 50 per cent, in the last six years.
In 1992, the Army had opened its doors for women and in 2011, 166 officers were recruited. However, in 2014, the induction of women officers declined to 100.
In the 2015 Republic Day parade, 75 women officers had participated showcasing the armed forces’ “Naari Shakti”. This year, the number of women officers went down to 61. Since 1992, the Army has not assessed the requirement of women officers. Now, after their induction in the IAF, the Army may witness a rise in their number, sources said.
The Army Headquarters explained the downward trend by saying that exit of women officers from Indian Army is negligible due to pending litigations in the Supreme Court.“Non-exit of women officers has led to reduction in vacancies,” Army headquarters told Express.
The Indian Army has a shortage of more than 9,000 women officers at present. The number is likely to increase after the induction of new strike corps. Though the Army does not send women officers to combat missions, they are inducted in Signals, Engineers, Army Air Defence, Intelligence and Legal, among other services.
Military analysts said women candidates, who had appeared for the Service Selection Board (SSB), were interested to join the Army after watching women officers marching on Rajpath. On the other hand, there is also a rise in vacancy for men as number of candidates applying for the Army cannot fulfil the requirements.
The Indian Military Academy (IMA) has a capacity of 275 male cadets. This year, only 150 of them could clear the SSB and the remaining positions were left vacant due to shortage of suitable candidates. In case of women, 22 cleared the SSB. However, all of them could not make it as there were only five vacancies.
Soumya Sharma (name changed) says, “I am working as an advocate with Chandigarh High Court. Even after clearing the SSB, I could not make it as there were only four vacancies.”
The current notification of Combined Defence Services gives 375 vacancies for men and only five for women. There are only four vacancies left for the position of Judge Advocate General.
Pooja Singh (name changed) from Chattisgarh says, “ I have cleared the SSB for JAG entry and I feel proud about it. However, my chances are low as there are only four vacancies.”