In a path-breaking move towards women empowerment, the Narendra Modi government is all set to accept Indian Army's proposal to offer permanent commission to women officers.
Unlike countries such as the US, Israel, Australia, Sri Lanka and Sweden, where women officers serve in combat roles, India has not opened combat field to women officers.
The adjutant general directorate in the Army Headquarters, New Delhi, has sent a detailed proposal to the ministry of defence led by Arun Jaitely to have women officers in units like Intelligence Corps, Signals Corps, Ordinance Corps, Army Service Corps and Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps.
"The proposal is under the ministry's consideration. Beyond this, I cannot say anything," a top defence ministry official said.
At present, women can join the army as short service commission officers and get posted in less-critical branches such as Judge Advocate General branch and Army Medical Corps and Military Nursing Service.
Until now, the army's stand has been that women cannot be granted permanent commission as the bulk of the junior commission officers (JCOs) and jawans, who hail mainly from rural India, are not yet ready to accept a woman as their leader in combat situations.
Even the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force have also not opened doors to women officers in combat role.
The mindset of the forces against offering key positions to women officers can be judged from the fact that recently IAF chief Arup Raha remarked "women are physically not suited to fly fighter planes".
Indian Army allowed women as officers for the first time in 1992 when they were introduced as Special Entry Group for four years, which extended up to 14 years in 2004. Even the extended service cannot
promote a woman officer up to the rank of a Colonel, which is mandatory to be the commanding officer of the unit.
"By giving permanent commission to women officers, the army is giving them an opportunity to command a unit. Though, due to erratic or unpredictable battlefield, keeping women officers in combat role is a bit difficult, there are places and support units where women can be posted," said an officer.
In armed forces, women are recruited as short service commission officers for five years within the overall authorised strength of the officers' grade
Army--2010--93; 2011- 164; 2012- 157
Navy- 2010- 39; 2011- 68; 2012- 31
IAF--2010-145; 2011- 134; 2012- 125.